Posts tagged affair
When Good People Cheat: The Unmet Needs Affair
 
 

“I never meant for this to happen,” is what I typically hear when I sit down with someone who has been unfaithful to their partner.

I genuinely believe them when they tell me this because doing this work, I’ve heard from plenty of partners who have strayed in some fashion, and this is a common thread. They are good people, and they’ve made a mistake, and it’s not my job to judge, but to help them understand what lead to their behaviors so that they can prevent it from happening again.

There are many types of affairs. The most common one that I see is what Mira Kirchenbaum calls, the “unmet needs” affair. In her book, When Good People have Affairs, she outlines many types of affairs and I often recommend her book to clients who have or are having an affair because it can really help them understand their behaviors better, in conjunction with the work we do in session.

The unmet needs affair happens when you feel as though there is something missing in your relationship with your partner.

It could be sex, intimacy, or intelligent conversation. But focusing on one aspect of the relationship that is missing is a trap, and many times people only come to realize what they’ve been missing after they’ve already crossed the line.

When you look outside of your relationship for that one unmet need, you are essentially negating all of the many other positive aspects that likely exist in your relationship.

A whole, healthy, relationship only includes sex or conversation as a very small piece that makes up the relationship, however the trap occurs when you begin to see this piece as a gaping hole – it has the potential to become everything, and with the help of an affair partner, you begin to negate the many other positive aspects that you once based your relationship on.

Getting involved with someone else in order to fulfill this unmet need is typically clouded by the electrifying rush that happens in new relationships. It’s quite normal for people to see their affair partner as the most amazing person they’ve ever met, however an affair relationship is only a façade – it exists in a vacuum, and lacks much of the other important aspects that secure, long-term relationships need to survive.

Using another person to fulfill that one aspect that was missing from your marriage is fundamentally flawed because without fully knowing your affair partner, you are unable to see all of their true characteristics, as this relationship will also have missing aspects to it.

If you think back to the beginning of your marriage, I’m sure there were fireworks. Things in the beginning of relationships tend to be intense and full of passion.

I once read that falling in love has the same impact as a drug on the brain. It’s easy to become addicted to that feeling, and those intense emotions cloud your judgment.

The beginning of a relationship is when you go out of your way for that other person – you stay up all night talking even if you’ve got to be at work at 7am, you write silly love poems, and drive an hour both ways just to spend an hour in the arms of your love.

If you’re stuck in the difficult spot of having already crossed the line and engaged in an affair to fulfill a need that was lacking in your marriage, you’re not alone. I know that there is a great deal of shame and pain that comes from making that decision, but there is also support for you to right your wrongs.

Although the road is long and difficult, I’ve seen some wonderful things come from those who are willing to look at themselves, their decisions, and learn from their mistakes.

Relationships can be repaired, and that shame can go away, but the first step is asking for help. If you could use some support and want to begin the process of understanding your behavior, give me a call at (909) 226-6124, and we can talk about ways therapy can help. 

Am I to blame for my partner’s Affair?
Am I to blame for my partner's affair?

Hindsight is always 20/20. Always. It’s just too easy to look back on an event and not see the signs, find the flubs, and scrutinize the details that were missed.

When you discover that your partner has had an affair, it’s common to press rewind on the last year of your life together and look for all the signs you should have seen and things you missed. The times they were out late and didn’t invite you, the times they were on the phone way too long with their work colleague and you gave them the benefit of the doubt, not wanting to rock the boat.

When hindsight is 20/20, it’s easy to place blame on yourself for missing the signs, or not acknowledging them or acting on your gut feeling in the moment. But the truth is, relationships are generally built on trust and it isn’t foolish to trust someone you love and are committed to.

As much as you’d probably like it to, the past can’t be erased, and the future of your relationship is what matters.

Many times I have clients who say things like, “I guess the last year was just one big lie. When we took that romantic vacation, and he said all those wonderful things to me, it must’ve been a lie!”

I beg to differ. Your partner saying they love you, and having an affair are not dependent upon one another. People can compartmentalize things in such a way that makes this possible. While I acknowledge that it’s confusing, I don’t believe that what is said in a moment of romance between you and your partner isn’t true for them. Just as what’s happening for them in the moments they share with someone they are having an affair with are also very real.

What you do in the aftermath of an affair is what matters most. How you handle and set new boundaries for your partner moving forward is where you can take charge, and ask for what you need.

I have seen clients that feel as though it is now their duty to punish their partner at all costs after discovering their affair. They tell their kids, they tell their friends, their family, and anyone else who will listen in an attempt to get their partner to feel shame for their transgressions.

When this happens, it creates a space that is no longer safe. Trust is one of the most difficult things to rebuild after infidelity, but when the injured partner creates a space of punishment at every corner, things can truly backfire and this often sends the straying partner back into the arms of the other.

So while you are not to blame for your partner straying in the first place, it is your responsibility to create a space and relationship after the affair where communication is open, and you are both able to be authentic as you push towards creating a new normal.

Looking back on the signs that you missed won’t do a lot of good. What will be beneficial is to identify your responsibility and contributions towards the rocky patch in your relationship that lead to your partner’s affair.

Did you stop communicating? Did you put your job ahead of your relationship? Did you stop nurturing the friendship between you and your partner? Once you can identify your role, you will have a good place to start the healing process.

You can only control yourself, and you can only work on changing yourself in the aftermath of an affair. You can change how you relate to your partner, how you communicate with them, and how you show up in your relationship, but without looking at yourself and really taking an inventory of what you need to change, there is no starting point.

Starting over can be a challenge, whether you’re starting over after an affair, or starting over completely, I’d like to help with the launch of my new e-course, The Starting Over Series. To get on the interest list and to receive more details about this at-home course that will be launching in the very near future, click here

Why? And other questions after Infidelity
questions after infidelity

There are so many questions that come up after one partner has an affair, and the main question that I hear when working with couples struggling to move forward is, why? This is usually one of the main questions asked by the injured partner, however it is typically something that the participating partner has the most difficulty answering.

There are various ways in which couples deal with affairs, they either 1) ignore the problem and hope to push past it without truly delving into discussing it explicitly 2) spend even more time together, and try to “love it out” in a sense, or 3) they separate in an attempt to stop fighting about it.

Wanting to know why your partner did this to you seems as though it will unlock so much, and help you to move forward. But in my opinion, and in the work that I do with couples I’ve found that there isn’t always one definitive answer that’s really good enough for the injured partner, and it typically takes a great amount of time for the participating partner to truly understand why they decided to look stray. 

This can be extremely frustrating for the injured partner, and difficult to understand, however I suggest more important things to focus on while getting to the “why?”:

1.     What about us? In the initial phase of healing from infidelity it is important to set boundaries for daily living and talk about how you will continue to be in the same household during this emotional time.

2.     Have you considered leaving the relationship? Although it isn’t vital to have a definitive answer at this point, it is helpful to find understanding in your partner’s feeling about staying in the relationship and working through the infidelity.

3.     What level of intimacy feels ok right now? Considering what normal activities feel right at the time and discussing them with your partner are essential in creating healthy boundaries in the initial phase of recovery. Deciding to do things like have coffee together in the mornings, hug, kiss, hold hands, and sleep in the same bed, and being vocal about what feels right will help keep everyone on the same page. I also suggest that you talk about what happens if you begin to feel uncomfortable with anything that you’ve agreed to try.

4.     What are we committed to doing in the short term? Creatinga short term plan to work towards healing and moving past the affair may be all you can commit to, and that’s ok. While there isn’t a definite time frame for this, it should be something both partners agree to and feel comfortable with. Within this commitment should be parameters about how you will work to improve the relationship and might sound something like, “I propose we work intensely on our relationship for the next 3 months and then reassess. That means attending weekly counseling, completing all homework set forth by our therapist, and continuing to stay in the home together, and making our relationship our top priority to see if we can indeed get past this.”

5.     Are you committed to a process of learning about how we each contributed to this affair happening? If so, are you willing to take responsibility? Are you committed to learning more about us individually and as a couple? I know this is a three-part question, but in order to move forward you must have all three components. This should also be something that each partner will commit to doing in small increments of time. While the larger question is always whether or not you should stay together, it is a process that occurs in order to find the answer.

Secrecy plays a huge role in an affair and is what the injured partner typically has the most difficulty dealing with and so if the participating partner is willing to be honest about their feelings and their commitment to move forward, this will help greatly in creating a new normal and in rebuilding trust.

Communicating after infidelity can be incredibly challenging. I see many individuals and couples struggle to find the appropriate way to move forward after their partner has been unfaithful, and so I’ve created a FREE guide titled, “My husband cheated: Communicating with your partner in the wake of Infidelity” and you can get it by signing up here. Whether you are the injured or participating partner, there is great info for both in learning to communicate after infidelity, so I hope you’ll get your copy!

If you could use more support and want to talk about the possibility of couples counseling, please give me a call at (909) 226-6124. I’m happy to chat with you about the benefits of counseling and how you can begin to move forward.