BAN serves two primary purposes:
As a place to safely share the painful emotions that interfere with recovery.
As a place to gain strength and perspective, aimed at thinking more clearly and acting more effectively - in order to recover from this experience.
Any good support group needs to provide help in two different ways:
Through "caring" (when there's simply a need for support).
Through "wisdom" (when there's a need for sharing experiences as to what has been helpful).
Just as when a leg is broken and a crutch is essential for a period of time, the group needs to be this kind of crutch for awhile; but if that's all it offers, the person can become dependent and never learn to walk on their own.
The ultimate goal of BAN is to help people reach a point where they no longer need it. However, as I've also said many times, this process takes time and can't be rushed. Nevertheless, it's important that BAN serve to actually "move the process along."
So I hope that each BAN member will determine for themselves just what they're looking for from the group at any particular time and use the group to reinforce their own effort. This does not mean it is a selfish pursuit just "for your own good." From personal experience, I realize how sometimes "helping others" does more to "help yourself" than almost anything you can do. I'm convinced that my reaching out to help others made me much stronger, and that I would not be where I am today if I had focused only on myself.
What happens at BAN Meetings
- Coordinators "Facilitate" (not "lead") the meetings. The Coordinator is there to participate as a full member, not just to help others. It's their responsibility to share their feelings and experiences just as others do. It's important that there are no experts and no leaders, so that each person is an equal member of the group and participates in such a way as to empower everyone present.
- The general nature of the discussions will be in keeping with the BAN Guidelines listed below.
- The general length of the meetings may be about two hours. (However, the group can discuss this and make whatever changes suit the group.)
- Members may remain anonymous, using only first names.
- No one is expected to share more specific details about their situation than they are comfortable sharing. (In fact, it's more useful to discuss how you're dealing with this than recounting details.)
- Everyone is expected to participate in some way; no one sits as a "silent observer."
Some questions that may be used at meetings to help people
connect and relate to each other based on common information
- How many years had you been married when you learned of the affair?
- What was the date you learned about your spouse's affair?
- Have you and your spouse talked about it a little or a lot?
- Who else have you discussed it with: a friend, a family member, a counselor or other professional, other - or no one
- Are you still married? separated? divorced?
Guidelines for Participation and Interaction
(These BAN Guidelines have been the same for the past 20 years,
Excerpted from "Beyond Affairs" and "The Monogamy Myth.")
||Be honest in your sharing. Avoid any tendency to "put up a good front." Don't compete by trying to sound better or worse off than someone else. Remember... you're all in this together and you don't have to impress anybody.
||Support each other in feeling good about yourselves and your ability to cope with the situation. Self-confidence is vital in getting beyond the pain. This means not getting bogged down in " blaming" and griping about "how awful it is." Acknowledging these feelings may be necessary and useful, but going over and over them doesn't change anything-and may do you harm. It can keep you feeling sorry for yourself, and this just makes it harder to develop your sense of self-worth.
||Really listen to the other people. You're there to support each other. That can't happen if you're only thinking about yourself.
||Don't debate differences of opinion. Being supportive means avoiding "approving" or "disapproving." There's no need to be in agreement. Support comes from understanding and accepting-not from judging.
||Avoid "leading" questions or "helpful" advice, such as:
--"Why don't you...?"
--"Did you try...?"
--"I think you should..."
--"If it were me, I'd..."
||Ask clarifying questions to help others think things through for themselves, such as:
--"How long have you felt this way?"
--"Have you discussed this with anyone else?"
--"What have you tried?"
--"What are your alternatives?"
||Talk about your feelings. That's more important than the details of your experience.
||If you feel angry-admit it. You can't overcome it as long as you hide or deny it. This doesn't mean you have to act on it. Just openly acknowledging your anger is the first step toward loosening its power.
||If you feel guilty-say so. You may be holding secret fears that somehow it's all your fault. Again, you need to acknowledge the feelings before you can deal with them. There are many burdens of guilt you may have put on yourself that you need to get rid of. You could feel:
--guilty that you failed to have the "ideal" relationship.
--guilty that you're leaving your partner.
--guilty that you're not leaving your partner.
--guilty that you feel angry or vindictive.
||Freely respond to others when they express feelings that you understand or can identify with. This may not seem very important, but it can be critical in giving them the strength they need and letting them see they're not alone. You can offer comments, such as:
--"I know how you feel."
--"I've had that experience too."
--"That's one of my concerns...or fears...or uncertainties."
||Remember that no one else can decide how you should feel or what you should do. They can provide support for you to figure things out for yourself.
(End of excerpt from Beyond Affairs and The Monogamy Myth)
[ Next - Coordinators of Local BAN Chapters ]