Discovering the infidelity of your mate delivers
a gigantic blow to your belief systems, your values and your perceptions
of what is right and wrong. Everything you've ever held dear or
has ever been important to you is now shaken to its very foundations.
It feels as though you are being punished for being good and for
remaining faithful. It seems as though black is white and white
is black. You wonder, why was trusting my husband/wife a mistake?
And you wonder if it is even sane to ever trust anyone again.
At Beyond Affairs this week, we agreed that the
biggest issue was actually the issue of trusting ourselves again.
Most of those present were no longer in their marriages and felt
that they first of all had made the mistake of marrying the wrong
person. Now they don't trust themselves in making decisions regarding
choosing a mate. Many of us also recognized that we had made many
wrong decisions along the way in our relationships, allowing abusive,
codependent and inappropriate behavior in an effort to keep peace.
The problem was at the time we did not even recognize that these
behaviors were abusive and/or codependent. We were unconsciously
incompetent - that is doing the wrong things and not even aware
We wished that we could have identified the problems
in our relationships in some easier way, counseling or taking a
class, but unfortunately for many of us we were doomed to the devastating
9/11 personal wake-up call, when our spouse had an affair.
How can we trust ourselves again to make good
choices for ourselves? To not allow ourselves to be abused again?
We must grow as individuals. We must acknowledge the fact that we
have grown already. We have now become consciously incompetent!
We are still doing the wrong things, but at least we are conscious
of our own need to change! And we are taking responsibility for
our own lives, rather than seeing ourselves as victims. We are seeing
our part in the relationship break down and we are changing. We
do this by increasing our own awareness (educating ourselves), through
reading books, going for counseling, getting perspective from others
who are doing well in their relationships, support groups like the
Beyond Affairs Network and perhaps other self growth groups and
resources as well. The point is we have to be proactive and take
responsibility for ourselves. The other thing we have to do is give
ourselves a break and not expect perfection. It is okay to make
mistakes along the way. This is how we all learn and grow. We just
need to make sure we keep growing.
A situation comes up. We recognize this could
be a bad choice. Instead of just doing it this time, we talk to
a friend or counselor. This time we do the right thing and avoid
the pitfall. We are becoming consciously competent. Most people
spend most of their time swaying between consciously incompetent
and consciously competent. If you keep on practicing consciously
competent, eventually you reach a place where you become unconsciously
competent. You are consistently doing the right things (making right
decisions) without even having to think about it.
Codependency is not just about drug and alcohol
addictions. It involves other inappropriate or addictive behaviors
within relationships as well. Many times we allow others to mistreat
us, while we play the part of the noble spouse, who is so kind,
so giving and so loving, helping our spouse through all their difficulties.
Really our behavior is disgusting and unhealthy, because we are
enabling another's inappropriate behavior. Codependency and the
issue of having healthy boundaries are interrelated. Having healthy
boundaries means that we do not take responsibility for that which
is not our responsibility. We do not pick up the ball that someone
else drops. It means we allow others to suffer the consequences
of their own mistakes. We do not pay their price for them. A great
and amazing book to read on this issue is 'Love is a Choice' by Drs. Minirth, Hemfelt and Meier.
Virtuous Woman, Who Can Find?
One woman, now single, shared how she was working
on discovering who she really is, what she really likes and thinking
about what she really wants out of her life, instead of living her
life obsessively to please everyone else around her. She is just
about finished her education, while managing her household and children
on her own. Many people who find themselves single focus all of
their attention on trying to find someone new, rather than working
on improving themselves. (Then someone will be dieing to find them!)
It is interesting to note the famous biblical passage regarding
the virtuous woman. This woman is amazing. She is a fine business
woman, she manages her household well and she has inner beauty as
well as outer beauty. Interestingly enough, one of our members shared
how interpreters had been very careful when choosing this word during
translation from the original Hebrew text, because this word correctly
denotes the real meaning 'manly strength.' We all laughed because
this single female affair survivor had just shared how she had independently
ripped her own carpeting up and refinished the flooring on her stairs.
We agreed that she was the virtuous woman, because of her manly
strength! The point is: This is what we should all be doing in recovering
from affairs, regardless of whether we are still married, separated
or single. Work on being virtuous, discover who we are, develop
ourselves as individuals, develop a purpose and mission for our
lives and work on being self-sufficient (not just financially but
emotionally as well).
The ideal relationship is an interdependent relationship.
First as children we are all dependent. We start out dependent on
our parents for survival, but we grow up and we should become independent.
The same is often true in relationships. Unfortunately many people
start out being dependent on each other. They get married for the
wrong reasons, to escape other problems or because they think being
married will make them feel better about themselves. Growth is becoming
independent, no longer 'needing' each other. One has to be independent
before one can become interdependent, which means not needing each
other, but choosing to be together, because together you are stronger
and better than alone.
Your Spouse Again
I'm including here an excerpt from my book
'My Husband's Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.' Here are 3 essential keys to rebuilding trust in the relationship:
1. Sever All Ties with
the Third Party
If the couple intends to rebuild the relationship
it is first of all essential that ALL ties with the third party
are severed. You cannot remain just friends with this person. Many
times the person having the affair is quite reluctant to do this,
and it may be necessary to deliver a strong ultimatum, such as the
one I gave Brian (I have included it in my book). Many times the
betrayed spouse is afraid to deliver this strong type of a message
to their spouse, because they are afraid of being alone, and this
is understandable. However, this same fear is unattractive to the
spouse who has had an affair. It makes them feel trapped in the
relationship. In order to learn more about how to effectively insist
that your spouse break ties with the third party, I also recommend
the book, 'Love Must Be Tough' by Dr. James Dobson.
2. Talk, Talk, Talk
and Openly Discuss the Affair
The way Brian and I healed our marriage after
the affair, was through hours upon hours of dialogue. There was
many a painful discussion, but through these discussions came understanding
and healing. It is essential that the person who has had the affair
be willing to discuss the details of the affair and answer all their
spouses' questions. I have seen no better explanation as to why
this is important than the analogy made by one man in a letter he
wrote to his wife who had had an affair, Joseph's Letter. (This
letter is also included in my new book 'My Husband's Affair.')
3. Patience and Giving
to Each Other
The person who has had an affair must understand
that this has been very painful for their spouse. Healing takes
time. In our situation, it took two and a half years. This is actually
a relatively short time period. We had more support than most and
Brian was exceptional in his strength and courage to do the work
of healing. He had to be very patient with me for a long time, as
I worked through the grief, the sadness, the anger, and asked many
questions at the pace with which I was ready to hear the truth.
This he had to do, while he himself struggled with his own feelings
of guilt, and while he was very much alone. Generally there is a
lot of support available for the person who has been betrayed, but
the one who has been unfaithful is the bad guy, the loser and the
one everyone hates. A support group for individuals who have had affairs, and who are sorry for their actions,
love their spouses and sincerely desire to rebuild their marriages is now offered as an ongoing complimentary service for those who have attended the Healing From Affairs Intensive Weekends for Couples.
In addition to Brian's patience, I also had to
be patient and understanding towards him. I had to create an atmosphere
that made Brian feel comfortable enough to answer my questions and
to communicate with me about the affair and why it had happened.
End of excerpt.
One lady shared a valuable graph regarding the
phases of trust pertaining to infidelity. Before disclosure of the
affair, trust is high. After disclosure of an affair, trust plummets
to an all time low. Through SINCERITY (breaking all ties now with
the third party) trust climbs perhaps 30%. Through ABILITY (discussing
the affair, answering questions and proven behavior during this
time) trust climbs another 30% or so. Through DURABILITY (being
faithful, open and honest - proven behavior - over an extended period
of time) one can regain full trust. IT TAKES TIME, WITH WORK AND
Bottom line: You shouldn't just blindly trust
anyone. We all have to develop skills in discerning who to trust
and when to trust. And we need to JUDGE THE BEHAVIOR AND NOT THE
Trust is a risk to be sure, but to not
take the risk is to cut yourself off from many meaningful relationships.
As much as there are many untrustworthy people in the world, there
are also many wonderful trustworthy people. Wise people don't cut
themselves off from everyone, because of past hurts. They learn
to improve themselves, and they learn to recognize who to trust,
when to trust and to what degree to trust. Blind trust is unwise
you would like to share a success story, helpful insight or comment
on this article we welcome your remarks. Email your questions or
comments to Brian and/or Anne firstname.lastname@example.org