Most people know what they think about affairs and what they would do if it happened to them.
A consistent message I receive is the people whose partner has had an affair are shocked at how they actually reacted to this news.
They were convinced they would end the marriage and of course, some do, but so many are stuck because even though a part of them wants to run away from their marriage to protect themselves another part of them still loves their partner.
These people end up very confused paralysed in what feels like a no-win situation. Add their kids into the mix and the complication multiplies.
I would like to take this chance to give a message to everyone! Affairs are NEVER the answer to whatever problem you have.
So if your marriage is struggling, find out why you have problems before you unleash a living hell on your relationship and family.
Every week affairs enter my sessions and I can promise you if the person about to have the affair knew the havoc, pain and suffer the affair would do to their life, themselves and their family they would totally agree the affair would never EVER be worth it.
Every person who has had the affair had no idea the problem they were about to unleash on their relationship.
I remember one couple in their mid-50s came to a session and when she brought up the affair his eyes rolled and in frustration, he said: “OMG that again!?”
He had the affair when he was 26 two years after they got married (in his head it happened quarter a century ago – contrasting her head felt like it happened yesterday). Instead of dealing with the affair properly they buried it totally unaware she would never forget it and it would affect how she showed up in their marriage every single day.
After an affair, it’s critical to find out why the affair happened or the victim of the affair will live in the relationship on guard and never be fully in it.
Dealing with affairs is one of my specialisms. There is a defined process the couple must go through to gain a lasting result.
One couple came to me with a significant problem.
He had an 2 year affair after 20 years of marriage. She had just found out and was naturally devastated and unsure what to do.
Her emotions were very powerful one minute she seemed ok and the next she was in a volcanic rage threatening divorce through tears and anger.
She was also in the normal process of wanting to know every detail and asking the same questions over and over again at every opportunity.
He, on one hand, understood her questions and his guilt and remorse were now pushing him to be totally honest but he was getting frustrated by her inability to let go of her anger and pain week after week after a month of this exhausted they came to me for help.
They told me everywhere they looked affairs popped up as they tried to live a normal life TV, theatre and simple night out with friends became a nightmare as affairs were part of every conversation.
The world was getting smaller and her constant focus was on…
WHY? Why did you do it?
When I asked her what her big fear was she told me that apart from him not seeming to know why the affair happened she was fearful that she wasn’t enough for him and he might do this again and she couldn’t risk it.
She also was afraid of what their three sons would do if they found out as they really looked up to him and this would crush them too.
Seeing the pain and what he could lose woke him up and so knew he would never do anything like this again ever, but for him convincing her was seemingly impossible and he was concerned she would never let this go and never trust him again or worse not give him a chance.
Her reality at that point was nothing he said settled her for long.
She admitted she wanted to punish him but she did say she was also frightening herself as she could feel out of control of what her mind was doing as her rage took over her.
She wanted him to feel the pain she was in and in the moment she wanted him gone but a deeper feeling in her was her love for him.
This was her battle. How could she love him and be herself whilst every part of her was telling her to protect herself from him and run.
To contrast this and to confuse her even more, her sex drive had returned and she took control of their sexual connection getting totally absorbed in him only to then be overcome with why did he do it?
Helping the couples to deal with affairs has to start with an understanding of why was this situation part of their story.
As we looked back into the marriage we could see they had a good marriage they got on, nice professional people but…
…what they were not aware of was how their dynamic had shifted and the impact this was going to have on how they both showed up in the marriage.
I knew the focus would be the affair but I was looking for the dynamic that caused him to be in a position to make such a destructive decision.
I discovered they had lost how to be lovers and intimacy becoming such a low priority because being mum and dad and professional people had taken over. I could see that it wouldn’t have been long before something broke.
We also discovered he had felt insignificant at home for years but had put his energy into his work so this rebalance worked but over the years apart of him was no longer alive and his sex drive died too.
If they did try to have sex he struggled this became another problem they switched off and just got on with life.
They didn’t argue historically but for me, this meant no one was sharing critical emotions and so in this mutually closed dynamic they were just practically getting on with life being good people not aware their relationship was starving of what it needed to survive.
They had no idea how dangerous this was and how vulnerable they both were.
So the moment a new woman made a play for this gentleman what was dead in him reignited and it was too powerful for him to ignore. He felt awakened alive and nothing else mattered in those moments.
He admitted to me that he was flattered and essentially this affair was never a long-term option but it helped him become happy again and he never thought he would be caught but today he hugely regretted such a massive error of judgement.
I could see in our first meeting this couple were totally unaware of the dynamic that would have kept their relationship alive through this and so they were making it worse without knowing.
The key to this situation was to help the couple take control of the process they were in so they could help themselves and each other.
As I helped him understand what this news had really done to her and what he could do to support her he became someone she could start to rely on.
I also helped her understand what her emotional system was trying to achieve and how to take control of such powerful emotions so she could get to the truth in her own marriage.
Essentially I was helping the couple become far less reactive and in a position to start to choose their reactions and emotions so they could find out what was possible in their marriage.
As each week progressed we could see a shift as both people started to take back control of their emotional systems whilst taking responsibility for their part in their past dynamic.
I made it clear that he alone was responsible for his action to embark on the affair.
This responsibility on both sides for the past helped them both show up in the relationship this time with a clear knowledge of really how to keep all of their marriage alive.
This couple had many disconnects I had to work on with them.
- They didn’t know how to keep their passion alive
- They didn’t understand how different they were and what each other needed.
- They didn’t know how to have conflict and grow their marriage so they avoided it.
- They didn’t understand their roles and this killed the passion.
- They didn’t act as a team in planning their life together.
- They didn’t know how to really hear each other so communication stopped.
- And they didn’t know how to bring unconditional love into their marriage.
I have a mission for all couples that arrive after an affair. That mission is to help them discover if it’s possible to make their relationship significantly better than it’s ever been so they use this energy and knowledge to keep the marriage safe in the coming years.
Naturally, every couple is different and so whilst there is a process to help a couple reinvest how that process is applied will be different for every couple this is why these situations really need tailored expert help.
In next weeks “Last Chance Saloon Part 3” you’ll learn how I helped a couple reignite their sexual connection after it’s been dead for years.