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Posts Tagged ‘emotional affairs’

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.


After an Affair: Affair Recovery for Couples After Infidelity has Occurred

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The tough work after an affair starts with the revelation. Once both the partners are aware of the infidelity and the choice is made to stay married then it’s time to dive into the recovery process. In my experience helping people survive an affair I’ve been taught there’s almost no bounds to the desire to try to save the marriage. My job is to help couples divide the work and work smarter.

The partner who had the affair must work on humility. Frequently I call this staying low. Humility means there’s never any push back when the betrayed partner makes a request never any editing when replying to a direct inquiry and never any exhibiting hostility when responding to the deceived partner’s hostility.

Humility can be very tough for the partner who had the affair for a few reasons. First and foremost she most likely has anger she never dealt with that let her excuse or rationalize her affair. She may feel like she isn’t permitted to exhibit her unmet needs in the restoration process and so the process of stuffing the emotion may begin all over again leading to bitterness and possibly acting out.

The partner who was deceived has very well the hardest task of all in counseling. He must choose to offer forgiveness after infidelity has happened. If recovering couples decide they do not want counseling forgiveness may never be addressed or it may be ignored in favor of punishment. In treatment the marriage counselor helps the deceived partner release the frustration which leaves room for forgiving if he decides. The counselor also helps the deceived partner understand that forgiveness is not for the partner who had the affair it is for him and his well-being.

Working diligently during affair recovery isn’t enough. Both partners must divide the work and focus their energy on working smart. The result will be contented individuals and a marriage on its way to recovery.

Managing Anger during Infidelity Recovery: Coping with Anger and Anger Outbursts

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

When couples struggle to survive an affair, they may select treatment as a choice. Initially there is relief because they feel just like the specialist understands their heartache and can sincerely assist them. What may very well surprise them nonetheless, is the sensation that they’re moving two steps forward and one step back.

Leaving a session may make them feel as though they have the tools and are headed straight for success, only to be sidelined for days by unexpected emotional turmoil. This phenomenon has been called a roller coaster, but might be more accurately described as a dance with anger. When the partners arrive for treatment, what they might not get is that three people actually show up for the appointment. Just two wear skin, but the third is just as real and influential: anger.

Analysts are only now spotting the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, including anger, which the betrayed better half experiences following the discovery of an affair. The wrath could be displayed through anger outbursts or concealed away, but it is almost always at work impacting the direction therapy will take. Will the specialist help the partners talk about the factors that made the marriage ready for the affair, or will the focus be on the stress experienced by the deceived partner? Anger will decide.

The betraying spouse may be unable to identify her very own anger in the primary sessions as she may be working awfully tough to continue handling her wrath and not further offend the partner she betrayed. By ignoring her anger however, she is not coping with anger. In ignoring anger, she ignores the frustration, discontent, and antagonism that led to her to justifying, minimizing, and executing a successful affair. If the consultant fails to recognize her outrage in session, he may leave her in the same emotionally charged situation.

In infidelity recovery, angriness must be identified and met head on by all participators in therapy. Ignoring angriness doesn’t make it go away; it only makes it a much more powerful dance partner.

Infidelity in Elder Care

Monday, January 14th, 2013

When two nursing home residents Art and Frieda started to hold hands, kiss, and generally enjoy one another’s company, family members became livid. Why? Art and Frieda are married, however, not to each other.
When family members tried to intervene by contacting and asking the nursing home staff to prohibit contact between the two, the ethics governing body responded that the autonomy of the couple superseded the wishes of the family. Not only that, but when it came to taking care of the elderly, the staff had no right to keep the two apart nor administer medication to ‘dampen’ their desires. This case, reported from Sweden, reflects that infidelity is a growing problem for senior citizen homes, nursing home staff and nursing home patient family members. How should family members respond to this type of infidelity in marriage?
Family members can help each other by first assessing whether this attraction is due to who Dad really is (talkative, funny, gregarious) or if some personality change has taken place due to the dementia. After the initial shock, families who see Dad spending time with someone in the nursing home who is not his wife often report how happy he looks and how much joy they seem to share. If a personality change has occurred the attraction may be a reflection of this different personality and not a reflection of the dad they love and remember.
If a cognitive deficit has taken place (long term memory loss) then families must consider: if we cannot recall past promises are we morally bound by them? Many poignant movies have been written about an individual successfully wooing his partner who has forgotten her vows due to brain injury or dementia.
This is a romantic portrayal, however, and the reality is spouses of unfaithful dementia patients feel betrayed. Emotional distress increases if Dad has had a history of infidelity. Family members can respond to this by supporting Mom, one another, and getting outside help if needed.

Affair Recovery: How to Recover After an Affair

Monday, January 7th, 2013

In my years counseling, I have worked with several couples through the tragedy of sexual, emotional, and now the common financial cheating. I have seen some amazing recoveries. Couples who recover use affair recovery as an opportunity to create the best marriage they presumably can. The following is a summary of some “lessons learned” by couples have experienced after an affair (the pronouns “he” and “she” are swapped for simplicity).

First, sexual attraction and desire are normal, whereas acting on that behavior is where trouble starts. Accept the incontrovertible fact that you and your partner could be interested in people during your marriage, and target your energy on what is satisfactory to get on with next.

Second, life brings enticement and we really need to have plans to nip it in the bud if and when it strikes. Ask, “If my better half was feeling interested in somebody outside the relationship, could she trust me to handle those feelings and help her?” If the answer’s no, the plan should ideally include allowing anyone at any time to talk about feelings with a therapist or a reliable advisor.

3rd, take resposibility for your love language! Are you attracted to a certain appearance? Does the ability to make funny banter get your pulse racing? Does a particular talent or pursuit make your knees weak? Listen to these triggers, and ensure you don’t hire, go to lunch with alone, work out at the gymnasium, or Facebook with anyone who speaks your love language.

4th, Don’t put down or make excuses for your struggling spouse. Affairs require logistical back-flips and mental moral gymnastics that would put Cirque de Soleil to embarrassment. If you have the time to cheat, you have the time to prevent it. Eventually, if you have enough time to cheat, you have sufficient time to recover. Telling your other half you don’t have time for a wedding recovery activity like marriage advice, a church wedding retreat, or a once-per-week check-in breakfast with a trainer is a cop-out. The time after infidelity can seem just like predicting a cliff-dive; be brave and take the plunge not only for you but for your spouse.

Online Infidelity: Finding New Friends on Adult Social Networks and Emotional Cheating

Friday, December 28th, 2012

The advent of social media and user friendly communication technology has made it increasingly easy to connect instantaneously and always be finding new friends. Unfortunately they can make it more likely for friendships to turn into flirtations and flirtations into full blown affairs. Here are 10 signs that your online friendship could be turning into an emotional affair or emotional cheating.

Ask these questions: is your communication flirtatious? Are you sending any photos of yourself? Are you hiding or deleting texts emails or Facebook messages sent by your web buddy? Have you lied to your committed partner about any aspects (number of texts, mails, content of communication, kinds of words used of your online friend’s communications).

It is also necessary to consider if you have created an e-mail account just for your internet friendship without your committed partner’s knowing. Are you constantly checking in order to see if your friend has made contact with you? Do you feeldown when you haven’t heard from your web fellowship for a while? Also, after a long silence from your online buddy, do you worry or maybe obsess about whether your last correspondence wasok or whether it wastaken the wrong way?

Do you find yourself becoming cold toward your committed partner? Online friendships can be something more if you’re picturing your online friendship while making love to your committed partner. Is your communication becoming more sexual? Consistently wondering what it might be like to be in a committed relationship with your web closeness falls into this situation as well. Have you shared details about your committed relationship with your internet fellowship?

According to current statistical data, adult social networks like Facebook, as well as texting, have been cited in a big number of divorce cases suggesting the danger to the most important committed relationship is real. If you answered yes to any one of these questions you could need to stop and think about where your web friendship is taking your committed relationship.

Defining Infidelity in Pop Culture

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Infidelity is often defined as a betrayal of trust. More specifically; it is a sexual or emotional betrayal of trust within a committed relationship. For women, the thought of great sex usually involves a scenario in which there is flirtation, romance, and foreplay. Men, on the other hand, usually imagine great sex as the time when there were interesting positions or long duration. These facts are well known in the publishing industry which has responded readily with such visual magazines as Playboy and books that are more story and plot-based like Harlequin Romances and 50 Shades of Grey.

But does simply reading stories about people having romantic sex or looking at pictures of the sex act qualify as infidelity? We know that infidelity involves some core conditions. For example:

  • You are keeping a relationship a secret from your partner.
  • There is a sexual chemistry between you and a friend. You notice you become aroused when you see, interact with, or think of your friend.
  • You become less aroused by your committed partner, or, you picture your friend when you are having sex with your partner.

So although you are reading and not interacting with a person, your partner may feel betrayed if the core conditions are being met. For instance:

  • You may have no problem describing your reading material to your partner (or you may even share the material with your partner) but you find you resist telling your partner the exact amount of time you spend engaged in the activity.
  • If your reading results in increased sexual arousal that leads to masturbation you may find you seek the material out more often leading to less frequent and/or less satisfying sex with your partner.

If your partner notices he or she is competing for your attention and affection, or it is discovered you are keeping the reading a secret, then feelings of betrayal and infidelity may result.

How to Define Betrayal

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Imagine this:

An individual walks toward a park filled with family and friends. From a safe distance and without warning, he takes a grenade out of his pocket, pulls the pin, and tosses it into the crowd. The explosion is devastating. He rushes to his car, pulls out a paramedic’s uniform, and rushes back to the scene where he earnestly tries to administer first aid. He is shocked when his loved ones react with anger and confusion at his attempts to comfort and heal their pain.

If something like this really happened it would make the headlines, right? In reality, it happens every day but it remains a secret, it is confined to private homes, or it is exposed in the offices of marriage counselors. The scenario describes  the confusion and pain of infidelity, and implies the difficult, betrayed meaning for the spouse.

As a marriage counselor specializing in infidelity I try to help recovering couples understand the confusion behind this cycle and how to define betrayal. We know the pain experienced by the betrayed can be similar to the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder experienced by soldiers wounded in battle. The injured spouse may experience anxiety and depression, insomnia and intrusive thoughts, hyper-vigilance and an inability to maintain daily activities.

As the betrayer rushes in to comfort the damage he has caused, his partner vacillates between wanting intense closeness and insisting he get away or leave the home. Couples in this stage may actually experience great sex, intimate conversations, and open emotional expression. Just as quickly, however, their closeness can turn to confusion, anger, and even violence because of the blurred lines between trust and betrayal. This initial roller coaster is normal but it may be difficult for family and friends to be supportive (remember they were part of the collateral damage too).

Couples struggling to find equilibrium may discover they need the help of a professional who understands the cycle of infidelity recovery and who can offer the hope the couple needs.

Dr. Kate Walker, Ph.D. is the Owner and CEO of© and the non-profit counseling center Ann’s Place. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Supervisor.

Affairs: Can a Marriage Recover?

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

An affair strikes a devastating blow to a marriage. Whether the affair was a one-night stand, an emotional affair, or an illicit affair – an emotional affair combined with a physical relationship – the effects of having affairs can be long lasting.

Why it Happens

How does a marriage become the victim of an affair? Before the dynamics can be explored, it is important to understand that one partner cannot cause the other to have an affair. The decision to go outside the marriage to meet physical and emotional needs is just that, a decision. A spouse who feels his or her partner has become physically or emotionally unavailable may begin to depend on people or things outside the marriage to alleviate feelings of distress. A husband may decide to put in more hours at work where he can feel successful and appreciated. A wife may devote more time and energy to the kids because they help her feel loved and needed. When partners become accustomed to turning to things or people outside the marital dyad in times of distress they may become candidates for having affairs of one kind or the other.

Emotional Affairs Just As Harmful

Emotional affairs are incredibly insidious because they seem so harmless. Emotional affairs usually begin as a simple friendship. Sharing intimate details about marital distress or keeping secrets from spouses are signs that the friendship may be crossing the line. In the age of social media and texting, emotional affairs are prevalent as spouses feel emboldened by the anonymity of cyberspace to flirt and fantasize with online friends and coworkers.

Surviving Both the Emotional and the Illicit Affair

All-too-common emotional affairs, just as much as the illicit affair, can be devastating, but all types of affairs are survivable. One resource I highly recommend is Harley’s Surviving An Affair. Also, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist can help spouses dealing with this issue walk through the steps of honesty and transparency and achieve forgiveness, acceptance, and hope.

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