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Archive for November, 2015

Infidelity: A Blueprint for Recovery Part 3 – Apologizer versus Rebuilder

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

In the last blog, I talked about triggers and grief, especially over the holidays. Emotions can be surprisingly intense due to the anniversary effect and the pressure to have a ‘perfect’ holiday for family and in-laws despite the disharmony. The final steps in our blueprint for recovery for couples surviving betrayal, infidelity, and cheating is understanding and explaining the difference between an Apologizer and a Rebuilder.

When an affair is discovered or revealed in a committed relationship and the couple decides to stay together, the betrayed *partner will probably expect an apology from the betrayer. What *she may not know, however, is it is much more powerful if her apologizing spouse becomes a rebuilding spouse. An apologizer does just that; he apologizes. A rebuilder not only apologizes, he makes a conscious, visible effort to change.

I’ll give you an example. I live in a part of the country where the freeways are enormous and overcrowded. When there is a lull in traffic, or lots of empty space, or the traffic is free to move, it is not uncommon for me to speed. Yes I will put the pedal to the metal and push my little Jeep over the posted speed limit. I don’t feel like I am being dangerous, I only do it once in a while, and usually it is because even though I planned ahead, there is a wreck so I am running late. But yes I speed. And I am sorry.

So let’s see what just happened. I admitted wrongdoing (I broke the law) and I apologized. That puts me in the category of ‘Apologizer.’ I am not a ‘Rebuilder’ though because I justified my actions by explaining I’m not dangerous, I blamed a wreck, and I minimized my actions by saying ‘I only do it once in a while.’ Justifying minimizing and blaming are relationship killers and they can derail affair recovery efforts. I could have continued by saying things like, “I said I was sorry. Can’t you drop it?” or, “Why can’t you trust me? I’m not speeding right now!”

Rebuilding takes apologizing to another level. First, Rebuilders are quiet. They apologize and then stop talking. They don’t justify, minimize, and blame and they leave lots of empty conversation space. Second, Rebuilders are busy. They are going to therapy (or in my case defensive driving), meeting with healthy peers, reading books, and generally working on themselves, without pressure from the betrayed spouse, so they don’t ever do the behavior again. Finally, Rebuilders are humble. In most of the literature on affair recovery, this is the most important quality. They don’t fight for their rights in arguments and they allow the betrayed partner to grieve.

If you betrayed (or broke the law) remember, apologizing is not the same as rebuilding a relationship. If you have been betrayed, don’t settle for an apologizer.

*Genders and the words ‘partner’ and ‘spouse’ will be interchanged throughout these articles.


Infidelity: A Blueprint for Recovery Part 2 – Taking infidelity recovery into the holiday season and dealing with grief, trauma, and triggers

Monday, November 16th, 2015

In my last blog, I talked about a blueprint for recovery for couples surviving betrayal, infidelity, and cheating. I explained that the *betrayed spouse’s reaction to The Discovery, or revelation, of sexual, emotional, or financial infidelity could be compared to, or diagnosed as, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As we approach the holidays, it’s important to understand that the betrayed spouse’s feelings of sadness, despondency, anger, and disengagement can be exacerbated by environmental triggers such as the ‘anniversary effect’ and holiday sensory overload.

The anniversary effect is the term we use to describe the return of the intense pain on or near the anniversary of The Discovery. This can be devastating for the betrayed spouse because he may have been feeling as though the pain was finally manageable. When intense emotions such as difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, or becoming emotional with little provocation return, he may find himself questioning his marriage and his sanity. What happened?

When an affair is discovered or revealed the betrayed spouse feels intense pain immediately. Unbeknownst to him while he was experiencing the pain, his body was recording stimuli such as the angle of the sun, the temperature outside, sunrise and sunset times, aromas, and sounds (read The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk). If he discovered his partner’s infidelity around the winter holiday season in the United States, his body was registering some pretty intense stimuli: the end of daylight savings, holiday decoration displays, and holiday music in stores, the smell of traditional food. As the anniversary of The Discovery approached, his body was registering the stimuli, remembering, and feeling.

Even if The Discovery occurred at another time during the year, holidays (even those without the intense environmental overload) can still be difficult. Surviving an affair may mean grieving the idea of a ‘perfect’ holiday, vacation, reunion, or other traditional family time. Betrayed spouses may notice they feel like they are ‘faking it’ for the sake of the kids or the in-laws, or trying to create an ‘amazing’ holiday in spite of their pain.

If you are recovering from infidelity and you notice you are feeling emotional, disconnected, angry, or sad and you can’t pinpoint why, take a look at the calendar. Remember, triggers are on your radio, at the movie theater, outside your window, and in your shopping mall. You are not going crazy – your body is just remembering.

Next time: Infidelity Recovery Part 3: Apologizer vs. Rebuilder

*Genders and the words ‘partner’ and ‘spouse’ will be interchanged throughout these articles.

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