Had my first MC appt yesterday.(WH and I went together last week, he went on Saturday and I went yesterday). The MC sent me this. What do you think? I was pissed/laughing/sad and angry.
It's a little long - and if you are like me - you will NOT think she has a clue! Was this written recently? Or in the 30's?
By Bonnie Eaker-Weil, PhD
My professional experience has convinced me that most marriages can survive and even prosper after a betrayal, if the couple is willing to do what's needed--possibly even break up to make up. Remember, second marriages are higher in divorce and adultery than first marriages, so it's worth trying to work it out before you walk away.
My theory for adultery is very different from the mainstream way of thinking, but I have seen it proven in my family therapy practice so many times now that I know it has great merit. Ninety-eight percent of the couples in my practice who experience adultery make up and stay together with the approaches outlined here. If they can do it; you can do it, too!
[NOTE: Although adultery is committed by both men and women, the words “he” and “him”
will be used throughout this article to refer to the betrayer or adulterer instead of “he/she”
or “him/her” and “she/her” to refer to the betrayed partner.]
Adultery is most often the result of an inherited emotional behavior pattern, rather than a desire to be unfaithful. The adulterer is trying desperately to finish his childhood and heal his wounds. Sometimes these wounds occur because of adultery or some form of betrayal in the family of origin that has been passed down from generation to generation. The adulterer is trying to finish his developmental stage through the affair, instead of with the partner.
You can help prevent adultery by knowing the stage your partner is stuck in, and helping him to heal those wounds and rewire his circuits so he doesn't look elsewhere. Taking this preventive measure gives you both a second chance to make your marriage better. Taking this step - after adultery has occurred - gives you a second chance to rewrite your relationship scripts and move on together.
Infidelity is any breach of trust between two people who are committed to one another. Any activity or relationship that drains too much time and energy from life with your partner is a form of unfaithfulness.
Adultery is rarely about sex. In fact, sometimes the sex the adulterers have in their marriage is more fulfilling. The reasons for seeking the other person are usually emotional, not physical. Rather than simply seeking sex, the betrayer is living out an emotional compulsion to heal the past by repeating it. [This is known as Repetition Compulsion.] Some of the most devastating affairs are those "affairs of the heart" where no sex is involved, but one partner's intense emotional connection with a third person creates a deep rift in the relationship that bears the same feelings of betrayal and abandonment that follow a sexual affair. Many of these types of affairs are rampant on the Internet today and may never be acted out sexually.
The 2% of my patients who have not been helped by therapy alone are those with the deadly combination of both the biochemical craving and emotional emptiness. We can no longer view adultery as having just an emotional inheritance. Just as with the alcoholic's physical craving for alcohol, it's time we treated adultery as a disease.
• An affair is a cry for help. It shakes you to wake you, reverberating throughout the family system. Only people who are in some kind of emotional pain commit adultery. (Sometimes the pain is because they were not in love when they married, and still are not.)
* The affair is not the predominant problem in the relationship, but rather a symptom of mutual
disconnection, emptiness, and a lack of intimacy in the relationship that the affair is masking.
• An affair is a triangle to avoid or deny problems in the relationship that must be faced and resolved. Two people in a relationship unconsciously collude to have an affair.
• An affair is not therapeutic in the long run, while some may believe that taking a lover will resolve or improve their problems with their spouse, you cannot fix what's wrong in a relationship by adding another complication. It only gives you another problem.
• Healing comes from both the betrayed and the betrayer accepting and taking responsibility for the affair. They should envision an "equal sign" between them, both seeing their part.
• For many couples, adultery is the necessary obstacle they must overcome in order for them to have passion and learn to communicate, to be intimate, and to connect and bond.
Affairs Are the Result of "Checking Out"
Affairs are also the result of one of the partners' "checking out." For example, my patient Barbara had an affair to "check out." Checking out is to purposefully avoid making connections with your partner and to escape from working on the relationship with your partner. It is not the same as not knowing how to connect, but rather intentionally choosing not to connect.
Her husband said, "Barbara punished me for not knowing how to connect, she thought that I'm checking out on her. But I wasn’t avoiding or escaping…I just didn’t know how, at least those are things I can learn. This is really her projection onto me." Barbara was actually the one who kept checking out and shutting down. She had to decide whether to do the work in her own relationship, which meant being patient with Bob as he learned connection skills. As long as she continued to put the blame on Bob for not knowing how to connect, and kept seeking affairs as a way to avoid connection (which was heart-breaking to him), they would not have the intimacy Barbara claimed she wanted with her husband. It's senseless to punish someone for something they don't know--especially if they're willing to learn.
Some adulterous women marry for other reasons than love, such as ticking biological clocks, prestige, money, or pressure from family members. They feel cheated, so they cheat, knowing that men are not forgiving. It is an "escape hatch" that alleviates the guilt of leaving her family in any other way.
In general, those who betray through infidelity:
• Are unable or afraid to directly communicate their emptiness, dissatisfaction, and pain to their partner or don't know what it is that’s causing those feelings, so they run to another.
• Are often unable to tolerate genuine intimacy (deep understanding, closeness and tenderness), and so attempt to create a kind of pseudo-intimacy with a lover.
• Are often minimizing the problems in the relationship, and instead of talking them out, are "acting out" by having an affair.
• Are trying to punish their partner, for emotionally betraying them or "checking-out".
• Are using a drastic measure to be seen and heard.
Whether you have been betrayed or have betrayed your partner and want to save your relationship, you are not alone. The road to healing may seem long and difficult, but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. You can put this crisis behind you and move forward with your mate to have a better relationship than you've ever had before.
If you are tempted to stray, do whatever it takes to avoid making this mistake. Adultery has lasting repercussions and it is much less painful to resolve your problems with your partner than to add new problems on top of the old.
How to Confess an Affair
To prepare yourself for this talk, keep uppermost in your mind that adultery is a symptom of an existing problem in your relationship, not the problem itself. You have to get to the real underlying problem, rather than focusing solely on the affair. This is where most couples go wrong. Don't get stuck in a no-win blame game!
Approaches to Confessing an Affair
• Your motive for confessing should be a genuine desire to improve your relationship, not to ease your own guilt, not to vent anger, or get back at your partner.
• Be sensitive to timing. Consider your mate's energy level, mood, schedule, and events or crisis she is already dealing with. If you're afraid to tell her or keep putting it off, consider meeting with a therapist.
• Reassure your partner of your love. Recall special times together with her and as a family.
• Use fair fighting techniques. Fighting fair is about committing to a new way to feel safe to communicate and to validate. A core skill is announcing or disclosing to each other, directly, honestly, and respectfully, your changing needs and requirements for closeness and space.
• You agree to listen without debating, shaming, distorting, defending, criticizing, or trying to "fix the problem." In order to do this, practice using the visualization of placing a big, clear bubble around yourself. Actually see it in your mind. This is to remind yourself that you and your partner are two individuals with separate boundaries and different scripts. (Couples often "prick" each other when they believe they should both have the same roles, such as wanting the same things or sharing opinions.) You also visualize putting on an invisible bullet-proof vest. This step is to remind yourself that "bullets" and "verbal darts" spoken by your partner cannot penetrate you.
• You practice feeling safe from her words, listening to the content but not feeling emotional in response. Imagine putting on big, invisible, very soft and fluffy gloves so that you would both remember to "cushion your words," rather than just blurting whatever comes to mind. All of these visualizations will help you to learn and reinforce the fighting fair techniques.
• Keep talking and listening, no matter how long it takes. Be open to your partner's reactions--especially listening to and validating any feeling of abandonment and betrayal without anger or blame. An inclination to speed through this talk or minimize its significance could jettison
(throw off) your relationship.
• Tell the truth about whether or not you plan to end the affair. If you want to make your marriage last, you must end the affair.
• Be willing to answer any questions about your lover but don't give too much detail. If you
don't answer these questions, your partner will dwell on them, imagine the worst, and become obsessed. The less you tell, the more they dwell.
Things to Share with Your Partner:
• If you still love her.
• If you want to stay together.
• If you love your lover or ex-lover.
• Who your lover was/is.
• How long this has been going on, when, and where.
• Who else knows about the affair.
• Don’t defend your lover. Make it safe for your partner to express anger, and don't get angry.
• Do not expect immediate forgiveness, no matter how much you apologize or show remorse. Your partner may be in shock or overcome with pain, and it's normal to expect tears, rage, and recriminations.
• If you have confessed an affair, or are about to, congratulations! This is a major step in repairing your relationship. In many ways, the confession is the easiest part, even though it may feel incredibly difficult. Once you have confessed, follow these guidelines to help smooth the road for better relations:
• See the lover for what he or she really is; flaws and all.
• Make time daily for your partner to express her feelings about the affair. Don't attempt to deny, minimize, or avoid this. Expect the verbal darts to be thrown.
How to Confront an Affair
If you know, or strongly suspect that your partner is having an affair, the sooner you confront him the better. Angry or hurt as you are, the way you handle the confrontation carries a great deal of importance in whether you will be able to work through this obstacle and repair your relationship.
Be direct but not critical. Don't ask, "Did you have an affair?" (That leaves more chance for denial.)
• First, validate him: "I know you've been lonely. I haven't been there for you, and I know there's someone else."
• If he admits it, ask: "Can we talk about it?" and "Can you leave her?"
• If he doesn't admit it, say: "I don't want to get into a power struggle over whether you are or aren't. I just know there's too much distance between us, so there might as well be someone else. We need to get help and bring back the intimacy in our relationship. I want to work this out with you."
• Nine times out of 10, if you make him feel safe and you don't judge him or get angry, he will admit the affair. He's feeling guilty and wants to be relieved of that burden; that's why so many adulterers leave clues (to be stopped). He really doesn't want to live two lives. Be encouraging and loving and show him why it's in his best interest to tell you the truth. Once he does, don't throw it up to him, or it will end the marriage.
• Make it safe for him to admit it. Say, "Let's work it out." Then listen. If you get angry, start crying, or attack him, you won't find out what you need to know.
• Anticipate that your partner might lash out at you, accuse you of betraying him, or throw up other non-related issues. Keep bringing the focus back!
• Express your suspicions despite your fear of abandonment. Avoiding the issue condones the affair and increases the chances of a break-up.
• Be compassionate. If your partner is cheating, he is probably in a lot of pain, too--feeling guilty, angry, afraid, and ashamed. The more you can set your partner at ease and reduce his guilt, the more likely your discussion will be productive and you'll find out the truth.
• Do not threaten divorce or call a lawyer.
• Insist that the affair end, otherwise there is no hope of repairing your relationship.
• Don't forgive prematurely. You’ll need time to deal with your anger, hurt, pain and remorse.
• Reach out and seek professional help. If you’re open and honest with your therapist you’ll be greatly helped in coping with this crisis and overcoming it.
* Also reconnect with your parents, siblings, and friends. You are likely to feel isolated and it is crucial for you to take your loneliness back to the family you grew up in and deal with the betrayal.
Helping the Adulterer Grieve
Those of you who have been betrayed are not going to like this, but one of the most important steps to healing adultery is for the betrayed to help the betrayer to grieve his affair. We always talk about the torment and anguish of the betrayed, but the adulterer's grief and distress are just as intense, if not more. He is still "in love" or "in like" with his mistress and is grieving the euphoria (feeling high) and magical thinking stages of that relationship.
Remember that the affair was his attempt to finish his childhood. He is not grieving for the lover. He is grieving for the honeymoon stage where all his needs were met, and for what the lover represents. He doesn't really know her. He has only his fantasy of whom or what she symbolized.
You're not "competing" with the lover; you're competing with his fantasy and his emptiness. He strayed because he felt something was missing in himself and between the two of you. Now it's time to help him find it. His feelings of emptiness began long before he met you, and your relationship opened his old wounds. His lover appealed to the developmental stage in which he was arrested, so he connected to her.
It's incredibly difficult for the betrayed to console her spouse under these gut-wrenching conditions, but she must do it. It's a two-way street. He has to help you to "lash the lover" every day and you have to help him grieve. One of the biggest reasons men go back to their lovers is because they feel guilt!
Grieving sessions must be scheduled by appointment and should be no more than 10 minutes long. If the betrayed partner needs a time-out, she announces it and asks permission first. This is a chance for the adulterer to grieve his emptiness; for the lover, for you, for himself, his childhood, whatever comes up. Your role is to encourage him to get it all out. The more he expresses and heals, the more chance of him leaving the lover!
• The betrayed puts on her bullet-proof vest and bubble. Your role is to help your partner with his unresolved childhood wounds instead of thinking about how bad you feel about what he says about her. Remember the equal sign; you both played a part in causing the affair.
• The betrayer puts on his "soft boxing gloves" to remind himself to be honest and to cushion his words. When your betrayed partner has made it safe for you, disclose to her what you miss and tell her how she can fill the void. Tell her when you felt the same in your childhood.
• The betrayed partner listens and validates (confirms). Let him (the betrayer) tell you (the betrayed) if he loves her (the lover). Most times, with your help, he will realize he doesn't love her, but only the idea of her. Stay calm and loving. He's letting you into his most vulnerable areas. Ask him to make you a list of what changes you can make to help him fill the void he's feeling.
• Tell him it's okay if he misses her, but be firm that you will not tolerate contact. (If he needs to see her one last time to have closure and grieve, he should. But he must promise you that he will not sleep with her.) Remember that he is grieving and longing for the parts of himself that are empty or missing, not her.
• If the betrayed breaks the safety zone by getting reactive, angry, or judging, stop immediately and take a time-out.
• Announce or disclose to your partner that you have no contact with your lover.
• If your former lover contacts you, reveal that, too.
• If you are grieving (feeling sad/suffering), announce it so your partner knows why you are distant or withdrawn. (If you forget to announce, your partner should coach you and ask, "Are you grieving? I'm here if you need me.")
In time, you can both accept responsibility and put an end to the vicious cycle of blame, obsession, avoidance, and attack. In addition, the adulterer can heal his emotional wounds and begin the process of reconnection with his spouse, and the betrayed can move from the horrible confrontation of finding out about the infidelity, through the recovery, rebuilding, and sexual healing, so she can reach forgiveness.
Don't expect instant results. It will sometimes feel like you're taking one step forward, then two steps back. You also may feel that you're "damned if you do and damned if you don't." That's okay as long as you're still moving forward. Remember that only 5 to 10 percent of affairs turn into long-term relationships. Divorce is not the answer in most cases.
Hold off the dissolution of the marriage and move toward the goal of repair. Use this situation to your benefit to learn a healthy way to fight, problem-solve, and attain intimacy. Then you can clearly evaluate whether to stay together or not.
Excerpted from the author’s book, “Make Up, Don't Break Up”