Generational Patterns of Extramarital Affairs

Being Real – The Most Admired Quality

– Generational Patterns of Extramarital Affairs
– What one Man is Doing to Restore His Family After His Affair

Generational patterns have a way of repeating themselves. If an affair has happened in your marriage, there is a good chance there has been one in your parents marriage, and unless you do something to break the patterns, there is a high probability your children will one day have affairs. Hiding the affair in the closet doesn’t break patterns.

Silence, isolation and putting up a good front (instead of being real) perpetuate unwanted generational patterns of extramarital affairs and behavior rather than stifling it. On the flip side, once the truth is told, the unwanted behavior loses its grip on our lives.

Most of us tend to put on a mask, so others, especially our family, will think well of us … but guess what, they aren’t impressed. We may possibly be successful in hiding what is not quite right with us, but our parents and children can feel that we aren’t being real with them. Pretending we have it altogether often drives those we love farther away from us, not closer together.

On the flip side, when we are real with our children and/or parents, usually the opposite of what we expect happens. They think more highly of us and feel closer to us. It takes a bigger person to be real and own up to their imperfections, than to hide our true selves putting on a façade that all is okay with us when its not.

When it comes down to it, it wasn’t the fact that President Clinton had an affair that brought such disrespect from the nation he was leading. Rather it was because he attempted to hide, lie, and cover up. When it first came out had he simply owned up to it by saying, “I had an affair. I take full responsibility for my behavior.” the media would’ve run out of steam, the American people would’ve forgiven him, and the whole thing would’ve been able to stay where it belonged, between the President and his wife. Hiding is not the answer.

Here is a letter from a husband who chose not to hide. He was unfaithful to his wife, but he has taken responsibility and is being a real man by doing the work necessary to restore his family. Now he finds his own parents seeking a divorce, and he has taken being real to an even greater level. What we need in our world are more real men like this man. I’m sure the future holds a big reward for him as he does what he can to break the generational patterns of extramarital affairs in his own family.

His heartfelt letter to his father says it all. I thank him for allowing me to share it with you. (These are not their real names.)

Dad,

There are some ways that you and I are very much the same. Like you, I am stoic and private, and I hesitate to share my personal issues with anybody else – family or friends.  I get very uncomfortable talking about personal stuff with anybody. For example, Janet and I had a very difficult year in 2006. We experienced a few of the most horrible things that people in a marriage can go through. Yet, whenever I talked to you on the phone, I told you that things were fine. Everything was OK. I was lying to you.

When I talked to you on Friday, you were lying to me in the same way. And I really do understand why. I want to respect your privacy. As you two go through this separation, Mom will be very open with us, and we’ll be in contact with her <snip…>. It will be very easy to support her. But it’s not so easy to show support for a stoic guy like you. Even so, I hope you know that we kids are as concerned for you as we are for Mom. If there’s anything that you need, just let me know.

Mom said something really funny when I was talking with her on Friday. She said, “Now, you know that this doesn’t mean that we love you kids any less.” I didn’t laugh then, but I’ve laughed about it since (with love – here she is, in the middle of a crisis, and she still worries about her kids). It struck me as funny because that’s the kind of thing that someone says to young kids, but not to grown-ups – we’re all middle-aged, for crying out loud. The point is this: between your kids and their spouses, there are several marriages of experience that you can benefit from.

And that’s what the rest of this note is about. If you don’t feel comfortable reading about my experience, then stop reading here. Just remember that we all care about you even though it’s harder to show it.

I mentioned my rotten year with Janet. Actually, things really turned around and got better for us starting in about July. I think the challenges we faced really woke us up and knocked us out of the cyclical pattern that we were in. We both really feel like we’re on a new track now, with the real possibility of long-term happiness. In spite of what we went through in 2006, our marriage is in better shape now than it had been for many years.

For my part, I decided that my marriage was important, and that I had to participate. Janet had brought her own issues to the marriage, and somewhere along the line I had decided that those issues were the problem.

I felt Janet needed to deal with those issues, and become a healthy person – after all, she needed to do that anyway, whether we were married or not. Our marriage couldn’t be fixed until Janet was fixed.

I let that burden fall on her. And that wasn’t fair, or healthy for our marriage. But at least I had my ‘out.’ Our marriage was doomed by her issues. I was covered. It wasn’t my failure.

Only it was. What I learned this year was that there wasn’t any way for her to deal with those issues apart from our marriage. I was blaming her for the problems, and not doing anything to help our marriage overcome them.

We weren’t working as a team – we really were as good as divorced already. If I had kept on like that, it was only a matter of time before the marriage ended officially. And then it would have been just as much my failure as it was Janet’s. Probably more mine, because she had been trying to tell me what the problem was. It took me years of heartache and some very traumatic experiences to open up and listen to her.

Today, things are different. I make her a priority. I send her an email every day. I set a daily goal and tell her what it is (today’s goal is to write this note to you and to think about what I’ve learned that could help you two). Every week we probably spend 3-4 nights together, after the kids are in bed, talking about our relationship for at least an hour. Sometimes that means reading a book together. Sometimes it means talking about the bad events that we went though last year. All of these things serve the purpose of bringing us closer together. Janet feels better; I feel better. And our kids will not grow up in two different households. So I think it’s been worth changing a few of my habits of thought. Janet gets all the credit, too, for hanging in there long enough until I understood.

Maybe none of that applies to you and Mom. I have no idea. But I heard two things last Friday that make me think it might. The first was from Mom: “It’s not your Dad’s fault; it’s mine. I’m the one who’s unhappy. I’ve got to decide what I want.” Then from you: “Mom has to take some time to work through it all. It’ll be alright.” It’s seems like what you’re telling Mom is this: either settle for what you’ve got, and decide to be happy with it, or look elsewhere.

What I’m telling you is that, under those rules, no matter what Mom decides, your marriage will fail. Either she’ll feel unfulfilled, or she’ll be gone. If you don’t want to fail in your marriage, then it’s time to consider changing the rules.

I could be totally wrong about your situation. I’m just speculating on the basis of a couple of things I heard last Friday and on the similarities in our characters. I hope what I’ve written is helpful to you, though. If not, at least you know that we’re all thinking about you, and wishing that you and Mom work things out.

Love, your particularly slow and dense son, Sean

This letter demonstrates how, when people are willing to be accountable and implement real changes, a marriage can turn around and an affair can be the catalyst for positive change. We don’t advocate affairs. You don’t need to wait for a crisis to decide to show up, be real and take responsibility. But if an affair has happened, you can make a decision to change and become better people.

Be real with the people you love. Quit playing the blame game. Take responsibility for your actions. Do something everyday to show your spouse that you love them.

“We judge ourselves by our intentions. Others judge us by our actions.”

Great quotes by affair survivors:

“We were in marriage counseling for years, and in some weird way it became a crutch. The ‘knowing’ didn’t cut it. It’s only the application of the knowledge that can result in a loving marriage.” – Hollis, Idaho

©Copyright 2013 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.