This is a conversation Brian and Anne had
one Saturday morning over a cup of coffee while discussing one particular
woman (Jane's) situation. Because Brian has so many valuable insights
into the mind of the betrayer to share, we recorded the conversation
and later had the words keyed into a computer. It was originally
never intended for sharing with others in this way. However, we
have shared it with a few people who have profusely thanked us for
the insights it provides. So by popular demand we are making it
available this week on our website. These insights are for those
who wish to learn about rebuilding a marriage after the devastation
of an affair, and assume they have had a committed relationship
where they genuinely love each other. One of the keys to healing
the marriage is hours and hours of dialogue, discussing the affair,
which brings mutual understanding, but how can that be achieved
when it is so painful for both?
Anne: What you're saying is that the unfaithful
person needs to be rewarded in some way; they need a positive experience
to come home to in order to facilitate the beginning of the healing
Brian: Yes. Both people are really hurt. He hurts
as much as she does, but it doesn't seem that way. The Betrayer
goes through a different kind of hurt but it hurts just the same.
He's aware that she's hurt. He knows that he is the one who has
hurt her. Obviously he still loves her because he's still there
in the relationship. But he has to deal with the emotion of knowing
that he has hurt someone he loves by his actions. This is the struggle
that he has. If they always talk about her and her hurts than the
relationship will never work out, because he's just as important
of a factor in the whole thing as she is. He needs to go through
the process of discovering that. One thing I had to discover and
learn through the process was that I say stuff that is not necessarily
true. But at the beginning it helped me to begin discussing the
situation if I wasn't judged and confronted instantly for every
false thing I said. It was a lot easier to blame you. It was a lot
easier to look at outward things as opposed to inward things. So
if I could look at things that I blamed you for at least it was
a start to communication. As we continued the talking I began to
discover what I did wrong, which was far more difficult for me.
When you were willing to listen to me without reacting or passing
judgment you facilitated my healing. When you didn't listen to anything
I had to say or when you reacted negatively every single time I
said something, then I didn't want to talk to you anymore.
Anne: Then you are saying that part of the fact
that you opened up to me and were willing to discuss the situation
was to your credit that you were willing to do that, but part of
it was to my credit that I actually helped you by creating an atmosphere
that made it possible for you to open up and begin to openly share
your true feelings. So when people complain that their spouse is
not willing to talk about the affair, part of that could be their
fault that they are not creating an atmosphere where they can share.
It might not be all their spouses fault that they aren't opening
up. It might be partially their own fault.
Brian: Most unfaithful spouses that want to heal
their marriages don't want to talk about what they have done wrong
at first. It's a humbling thing to say "I hurt you, I made
this mistake, and I've done these things wrong." Nobody really
wants to have to go through that. Nobody really wants to face their
own mistakes. If in fact you're going to get reamed out for doing
it, it discourages you from trying at all. The betrayed spouse needs
to try to create the atmosphere or opportunities for discussion
and when those opportunities arise, which could be in the midst
of an argument; they need to work on recognizing that it is an opportunity.
They need to listen to what their spouse has to say and somehow
try to put themselves in their spouse's shoes and imagine "if
I were the one that had the affair, and my spouse talked to me the
way I talk to my spouse, would I be willing to talk? Would it be
pleasant? Would I feel respected and loved? Would I feel that my
spouse truly desired reconciliation? Or would I feel that they just
wanted to get all the details, without really wanting to understand
WHY I had the affair? Would I feel that they truly desired to UNDERSTAND
Consider the analogy about the jigsaw puzzle (Joseph's letter).
The person who had the affair sees the whole picture. The BP (betrayed
person) only sees the parts of the picture which have been revealed
by the unfaithful spouse. One guy has all the puzzle pieces. The
spouse that went through the affair knows all the details. They
have the whole picture. The part that got overlooked in this analogy,
the part you really want to know is what the painter is like, not
every detail of the picture. It's the painter who has painted the
picture. It's important to get all the details, but it's more important
to understand WHY the spouse had the affair. Our imaginations create
mountains out of mole hills. Here's where the trust factor is affected.
If you don't understand me, the painter (the betrayer), and why
I did what I did, we will not be able to make positive changes in
our relationship, and you will not be able to trust me again. If
I do one little thing wrong, if I'm 10 minutes late, your imagination
can create a tremendous fantasy which is all untrue. So though the
betrayed spouse is told all the details, there is no understanding
WHY the Betrayer did what they did. Then it's just a detail that
doesn't mean something. And I think that if people really want to
work out their relationships, BOTH persons in the marriage need
to be understood.
Anne: But someone has to step out and do the
understanding without yet being understood. The BP feels victimized
and devastated, yet they've got to step one step beyond that.
Brian: Certainly the hurt period is there and
it can go on for a long time, but you can't wait until the hurt
period is gone before you begin the work of healing. In the midst
of all the pain, the BP has to somehow listen to their unfaithful
spouse. You are dealing with someone who has a character flaw right
now. I believe that it is more difficult for the betrayer in their
present state of mind to say "honey I think we need to sit
down and talk about the things that I've done wrong in this relationship.
This is what has happened."
Anne: That's the thing that's backwards from
what one would expect. We, the betrayed, feel that we've been wronged
and now it's time for the other person to pay us back and reconcile
and be willing to be the one to step up to the plate, but because
of the way the betrayer is feeling and thinking at the time, it's
highly unlikely for that to happen. So if you, the betrayed person,
want to reconcile the relationship you have to understand how difficult
the whole thing actually is for the betrayer. The betrayer is not
really willing to say they are sorry. The spouse has to understand.
Brian: I think the betrayer does feel sorry.
Anne: Yes, but they're not yet verbalizing any
of that. They are not doing anything to make it easier for the spouse
to listen and to calm down. Even though the person that's been betrayed
has been really hurt, if they want to reconcile the relationship
they can increase their chances for healing tremendously by stepping
above their hurt and endeavoring to understand the betrayed person
first, even if the betrayer has not yet expressed great remorse,
brought home flowers and whatever else the BP may be expecting of
them in order to try and right the wrong.
Brian: No, no. Certainly the betrayer needs to
work on making amends for their actions. In our relationship we
spent countless hours together doing fun stuff and countless hours
in discussions about the affair. The betrayed person has to be wooed
back to some kind of emotional connection with the betrayer. And
the betrayer has to bring some level of reconciliation there. They
can't just leave it up to their spouse to just deal with it. No,
that will never work.
Anne: Do you think that when a spouse has had
an affair, where they may have been close before, now there is a
great separation and they are miles apart? There is a huge gap in
the relationship emotionally. The betrayed person who has also moved
far away emotionally expects the betrayer to come back to where
they were before it happened all in one step, but the reality is
that the betrayer says they are sorry but usually not in a very
nice way, yet it is actually a positive step forward. Then the betrayed
person gets mad because it's not the way they wanted it to be. They
think it's not good enough. Instead they need to recognize the positive
effort the betrayer is making to move forward and reward that positive
effort with perhaps an understanding conversation or a fun time
out, so that they make it more attractive for the betrayer to take
steps in the right direction. Then the betrayer will be more likely
to move forward in the marriage. If the BP retaliates and gets angry
then the gap widens again. We are all looking for the big steps
but they usually don't happen. Maybe we need to acknowledge and
look for the small steps the spouse is making towards reconciliation.
Brian: Well certainly, you can't be devastated
and then get back to the same spot as before by one action. If that
was the case we wouldn't have needed to go out for dinner for three
months in a row. It takes a long time because there is this huge
hurt. Everyone needs to take these little steps towards the right
thing and just because they don't say things in one particular fashion
does not mean they didn't mean it. It just means your perception
of what they said; your imagination is telling you something else
because our natural reaction is to be angry. We want to retaliate.
We want them to be as hurt as we are, without really understanding
that maybe they are, but in a different way. Well maybe not the
same hurt but they are obviously hurting also. The betrayed person
tends to think that the betrayer is just having fun and not having
any emotional struggles.
Anne: I think it takes quite a measure of grace
for the betrayed person to step up to the plate and listen to the
betrayer while they are still hurting so much, but that's the part
that has to happen. And that's what's so hard. In another way it
shows the fact that I'm finding that they betrayed person does not
understand the 3rd party at all. They think "who is this bitch
with no morals that can sleep with my husband and doesn't she realize
what she's doing to me? She's the ultimate bad of bad people."
One woman felt that single woman need to be educated and understand
how much they are hurting families. (She didn't even understand
that many of the 3rd parties are married women!) What she's saying
is let's just take the opportunity away from husbands. That would
solve her problems, she thinks. The responsibility lies both with
the 3rd party and with the betrayer to not have affairs. It would
be great if we could create a world where affairs didn't happen,
but that's just about as likely as achieving world peace. The solution
lies not in educating people in how painful affairs are because
when people get involved in affairs it's like a drug or alcohol
addiction. Thinking you are going to deter people from affairs by
telling them how they hurt people is like thinking that teenagers
will stop having sex because of the risk of pregnancy or STD's.
It doesn't work. It doesn't deter very many. Talking about the bad
consequences does not hinder people from having affairs. What does
hinder people is something more complicated. They have to be willing
to look inside themselves and ask themselves the questions: Why
do I feel this way? Why do I want this affair? What is it I'm trying
to replace in my life? What do I really need in my life? They need
to look inside themselves at what's motivating them. That's where
the solution lies. It's an individual decision. The responsibility
lies within both parties having the affair.
Brian: The reason for affairs is there is some
emotional need that is lacking in a persons life. The affair is
not the responsibility of the betrayed person, but the betrayed
person does need to identify and understand their faults in the
marriage. They need to recognize those things. There are little
negative trigger points in the marriage that are difficult to recognize.
If we could learn to recognize these things we would have a much
greater success rate in preventing affairs.
Brian: I think it's almost impossible for the
betrayer to come out and start wanting to discuss the whole thing.
I think there's the aspect of confession and the explanation and
I think they can do that, but to be able to go through and tell
you all the things that happened and why they did it. I think it's
difficult. And I think it's difficult because they don't really
fully understand it themselves. I think that if they understood
it they wouldn't be doing it, but they are quite confused about
the whole thing. They are making decisions to do things that possibly
weeks or months or years before, they would never remotely have
considered. They don't really know why they are doing it now, but
they don't take initiative to really examine why they feel the way
they do. Certainly, midlife is a common factor.
Anne: Other common factors are things like major
financial loss, major career set backs, difficulties with children
and dealing with disease or a death.
Brian: Yes, any traumatic experience that hasn't
been worked through creates vulnerability and a need. I think affairs
are just an outward expression of some inner struggle that the person
hasn't been able to get a hold of, and it manifests itself in things
like affairs. I wouldn't say 100% of the time, but most of the time
people who have affairs have some issues in their lives that aren't
really big issues, but they have been left buried. An affair is
somebody trying to do something... but it's channeled the wrong
way and they're not even aware of it. I think that people who have
a fulfilling clear direction in their lives are not people who are
falling into affairs. They know where they are going. They have
a known destiny and purpose.
Brian: By 40, people have been in their dead
end jobs, no purpose, whatever. And with Jane's husband he's probably
as high up in his corporation as he can go and less sure about his
job now more than ever before. He's probably tired of traveling
and sleeping in different beds every night, therefore he's susceptible
to the flirtations of other people. In a job that requires so much
travel and never being at home, I can't see how that can be a healthy
thing. He's probably quite lonely. You're traveling with strangers
who are your colleagues, but how close can you really get?
Anne: It takes a lot longer for them to heal
because he's only home maybe 2/7 of the year or something like that.
Brian: But the problem is that I doubt that they're
having fun in the time that he is home. I think Jane just wants
to have her husband back and the other woman out of the picture
and then we're just going to go on with life the way it was, without
anything else changing. How hard is this? If she doesn't want to
take a day off work to be with her husband, well how much does he
know that? How hard does he think that she really wants to work
on it? He's saying well how much do your really love me? Where is
he on her priority list? First she would need to understand that
this is important to men. She needs to acknowledge his needs (recreational
companionship). I don't think she really acknowledges what his needs
are because I think she's just wrapped up in herself and she's not
able to look beyond herself at him or anything that's going on emotionally
for him. There are probably a lot of little things that go on that
need to be straightened up.
Brian: I needed a friend to say "you know,
I see that you are in a tough position and I see that you are going
to make the right decision." I needed to feel respected as
a person. That's what I really needed.
Anne: We think that we are above our spouse and
that we would never have an affair.
If we recognize ourselves for who we are and that we are all individuals
and that we are all susceptible to failure and moral break down,
if we recognize that about ourselves than it becomes so much easier
to understand someone else.
Brian: Now we have this ability the Lords prayer
"forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass
against us." The first part is forgive us. It's not the other
way around. No, first we need to recognize our own shortcomings
and failures, when we do that then it becomes easier to forgive
somebody else. That's how the process has to happen. If we think
we are above doing what our spouse did to us we are above bringing
real healing. I can't see how if you think you're never going to
do something like that, how you could understand how your spouse
feels. This is going to lag on if you think "you know what,
I would never do that."
Anne: I think that was one of the things that
really helped me in the healing process and in understanding. I
did try to get a grip on myself and say to myself "hey, I'm
not better than Brian. It could have been me. I have a hard time
seeing it but ok different circumstances, different pressure, different
opportunity - all I know is that I am a human being and I have the
ability to fall." Also thinking about things that I have done
wrong. Ok it wasn't affairs, but an affair could have happened to
me, if you weren't meeting the needs in my life.
Brian: If people think they are above their spouse
because they would never do it they're first off never going to
bring healing into their relationship. If they think nothing can
compare to this level of hurt. I've never done this level of sin.
The problem is we don't talk about affairs, and I can understand
it because it's uncomfortable and everyone thinks it will never
happen to them. Yet, it's no different than other things in life
we do wrong. We need to recognize that all wrong is wrong and stop
ranking them thinking "You're a worse person than I am because
you're wrong is worse than mine." We view affairs as really
bad (and they are), but we don't think of all the other wrongs people
commit in marriages as really bad too.
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