RECOVERING FROM AN AFFAIR?
The following video is about one important aspect of recovering from an affair: The negative impact of punishing the offending partner. Here is the video transcript.
“The Monogamy Myth”, by Peggy Vaughan
The Injured Party
I have not seen one singly more painful phenomena experienced by a marriage, the possible exception being the loss of a child, than that of an affair. If you are reading this you are, very likely, in pain–a lot of it. If you have recently discovered the infidelity, your head is still spinning, or your stomach is probably tied in knots. You can’t sleep at night. You worry about your partner’s business trips. Maybe you cannot stop crying, or you experience a rage you never felt before. Depression, anxiety, uncertainty, humiliation, unpredictability is only a short list of what you might be feeling.
You might be thinking “…how could this happen to me, I thought we were the prefect couple?” “How could I let this happen again–I must be a fool!” No doubt, your friends (if you garnered the strength to tell them) have weighed in on what you should do or feel, but that hasn’t helped as much as you hoped it would. It might have even made you feel worse.
The trust seems shattered forever, in yourself and your spouse/partner. You now wonder if your entire marriage was “…a total lie.” Bottom line, it is perhaps the most confusing time of your life, and sorting it all out seems impossible. Maybe one or both of your parents had an affair when you were a kid, and old feelings and thoughts have been unexpectedly reactivated.
One part of you has always carried the belief that an affair meant the end of the marriage. Another part of you suddenly questions the other part because circumstances such as children, finances, religious beliefs, etc., make the idea of divorce a very complicated matter. Now you are not only in conflict with your partner/spouse over what has happened, you’ve got two internal parts of yourself tugging on each other.
The Offending Party
You have had one or more affairs. You ‘fessed-up, you’ve apologized, and you just want to move forward and have the relationship/marriage return to normal (whatever that means). It’s hard to understand why your partner/spouse can’t seem to move on. After all, you‘re ready–or at least it seems like you are. All attempts to talk about it have only led to angry outbursts, with the injured party cycling back to the ultimate question: “How could do this to me?!” This happens over and over again.
You may have stopped seeing that other person. Problem is, you miss her/him, and are experiencing what feels like real loss. Funny thing is, one part of you could actually imagine talking to the injured part about that. Imagine how THAT might go! Don’t laugh–some partners have that conversation quite successfully under the right circumstances.
One part of you wants your relationship/marriage to survive, but another part struggles with the loss of the affair, or, with the trust you know is lost with your partner/spouse. You might be feeling guilty, confused, angry, to name a few, but another part of you has trouble managing your feelings alongside your partner’s/spouse’s feelings.
Bottom line, you feel like you’re behind the 8 ball, and are not at all clear as to how to restore balance to the relationship. You, too, are perhaps conflicted with the ‘should I go, or, should I stay conflict.’ In the last analysis, your feeling just as lost as your partner is.
Do Marriages/Relationships Have To End Due To An Affair?
The short answer is a resounding “NO.” Do many of them end? Yes. However, in 29 years of clinical practice I have seen many marriages/relationships survive an affair, and go one to build very satisfying, safe, intimate connections.
How Humans Manage Pain
If you are in this situation, think about this: We are wired to run from pain much more quickly than we are to gravitate toward pleasure. Our biology is designed to work that way–it is a survival tool. As a consequence some people feel compelled to run away from the marriage (the pain) toward divorce with the hope of reducing the pain. It frequently occurs at the height of emotional intensity and reactivity, when our decision making capacity may be significantly diminished.
I am not advocating for or against divorce. That’s no one’s business but yours. I am strongly encouraging good decision making at a time when you need it most. Make decisions that foster healing. Along with healing the pain will subside. Bottom line–get some help, if you need it, to reduce your emotional intensity/reactivity before you make possible life changing decisions following an affair.
Infidelity is one of the most painful, heart-wrenching experiences a partner/spouse can endure. In response to the positive feedback I’ve received from couples I have worked with over the past several years who have brought their infidelity issues to my office, I am developing a new product that I would really love to have available as soon as I possibly can–a product that reduces the emotional intensity of, and speeds the recovery from, the impact of an affair. Here is your opportunity, whether injured party, or offending party. I want to know what you want. Input from both sides of the street is absolutely necessary because recovery from an affair is not one-sided.
In putting this thing together, (I’m not exactly sure what the format of the product will be just yet-probably a video of some sort) I want to hear any questions/thoughts any of you might have about coping with an affair. I realize it is a painful event to talk or even THINK about, so I’m a little reluctant to even ask you for questions because I know it might reactivate some feelings. It’s a catch-22 of sorts.
So, if you’re still in pain about infidelity(s), and want you want answers and you need relief, go ahead and hit the Contact Dr. Hutt link below, fill out the form, and let me know what’s on your mind. Or, go to the blog. You can be part of the product development.