#1 - How can you heal if your spouse (or you) have to have ongoing contact with their affair partner?
#2 - Can wives prevent husbands from having affairs?
QUESTION: How can you heal if your spouse (or you) have to have ongoing contact with their affair partner? When rule #1 of healing from affairs is no contact with the third party? And we know that any contact at all with the 3rd party seems to keep the affair alive, if only in their minds?
First of all, I want you to really challenge the assumption that there has to be ongoing contact. Are you sure? No other option? You live in America, the land of the free, but you are not free to make your own choice about this? (or you live in another free country?) But they work together? In all of America, all of 50 states there is not a single other business or community that could benefit from your talents?
Be aware that more than likely you are making a choice that the financial position you are in with the business or company you are in now is more important to you then healing your marriage. I’m not saying you have to leave or move, but I am saying many couples make this choice, at significant financial risk, and more often than not find themselves in a better position down the road.
Whatever you and your spouse choose to do about whether to stay in a position that puts you in contact with the 3rd party or not, it’s important that it is actually YOUR DECISION. If you choose to stay in this situation, knowing it is your choice to do so (and that you aren’t forced – you do actually have a choice) will be your number one coping mechanism to handle this.
Ongoing contact with the third party is not ideal. When an affair has taken place, the betrayed spouse has a deep emotional wound. Seeing this third party will reopen the wound every time and make the healing of the marriage much slower and more painful, just like if you constantly keep reinjuring a physical wound.
In addition the one who has had the affair generally has had some very real feelings for the third party. It takes at least three months of no contact to grieve the loss of whatever good feelings they were getting out of the affair. Even just passing this person in a hallway and making eye contact can serve to keep the affair fantasy alive.
Couples who take drastic measures to move jobs and communities and sometimes even states to prioritize their marriages and families are rewarded with healing their families much quicker.
Sometimes the reason for ongoing contact is on behalf of the children, you don’t want the children to suffer any loss because of the affair, so you expose yourself to this ongoing contact on behalf of the children. As noble as this is, I want to ask you, why are your children more important than your marriage? Why do they deserve to be happy but you don’t? Is it really in your children’s best interest if you aren’t able to heal your marriage because the ongoing contact just hurts too much?
It’s not impossible to heal a marriage if ongoing contact continues, but it is more difficult. If you make this choice, it is imperative that the betrayed spouse is making this choice, and not that you are feeling coheresed by your unfaithful spouse. Then reminding yourself that it is your choice will go along way in helping you handle the ongoing contact.
If you choose to stay in a position where ongoing contact with the 3rd party is inevitable, it is imperative that you and your spouse sit down and create guidelines you both agree on about how contact will be handled. Will your spouse phone you when he sees him or her? Will a boss or manager in your workplace be made aware of the situation, so as to be more sensitive to not having you work on projects together? If travel together is necessary, can you accompany your spouse on that business travel so they are not alone? What guidelines will work for you?
Regarding your own contact with the third party, make up your mind to act with dignity. Do not let them get one up on you, because you “lost it.” Be self controlled.
What can your spouse do for you now to make you feel assured, loved and special? Let them know what these things are.
In summary, how do you cope with ongoing contact?
1. Recognize and own the fact that it is your choice to do so. You are not being forced. Remind yourself of this choice whenever you or your spouse sees the third party.
2. Agree together on guidelines for how contact will be handled
3. Handle yourself with dignity.
4. The person who had the affair should reassure you of how special you are to them as much as you need it to get past this – and you should consider what they can do to reassure you and let them know directly. Don’t make them guess. Everyone is different.
5. As husband and wife know that this can actually serve to strengthen your marriage if you become an unstoppable team, you and your spouse against the 3rd party (and the world). Always stand your ground in defending each other, especially in public, even when you disagree. Don’t let others witness contention between you. Back each other up in public, then work it out privately at home.
6. Follow Shirley Glass’s advice (“Not Just Friends”). The betrayed spouse needs a window into the affair. The affair partner needs a wall into the marriage. Do not tell them anything about how your marriage and healing are going. They do not deserve to know. A wall, make it a wall.
My wife could not have prevented me from having an affair because what kept me involved was how I was feeling around the other woman not how bad I felt about my marriage. Affairs are fantasies that cloud our thinking, the fantasy needs to end before we can begin to see/think properly, and clarity begins after the emotions of the fantasy subside – 2-4 months – after ending the affair.
It is a man’s personal vulnerabilities that cloud his thinking. As his thinking slowly becomes distorted he gradually gives himself permission to get closer and closer to moral boundaries he has set for himself. Eventually he finds himself across a boundary he once thought he never could. His feelings have lured him in. Black has become white and white has become black.
Having dealt with hundreds of unfaithful men who took the time to heal their marriages, has proven to us that though many initially blame their wives’ lack of meeting one or more of their needs, the underlying issues had to do with their own inability to deal with personal junk.
A man needs to take responsibility for his actions, physically and emotionally, otherwise he becomes a puppet on a string to any new woman around him. What allowed me to be drawn into an affair was my unawareness of how easily this could happen because of the numerous personal vulnerabilities I was facing, most of which I denied at the time. This did not mean that we had the perfect marriage, but my emotional needs, sexual needs and appreciation from my wife was extremely fulfilling. – Brian Bercht
No, I do not take responsibility for my husband’s affair. How can I be held responsible for something when I did not get the opportunity to participate in the choice of whether or not it was going to happen? On judgment day when I stand before God, one of the questions I will not be asked is “Why did you cause your husband to have an affair?”
Problems in a marriage do not CAUSE affairs. For every marriage with problems where an affair has occurred, I can point to another marriage with equal problems where an affair has not occurred. We all make choices, and must be held responsible for our own actions, not for the actions of others.
There are no perfect people, and there are no perfect marriages, so when we go looking for the problems in the marriage that allegedly caused the affair we can always find something, but have we found the root cause for the affair or merely a surface issue to blame?
There is a general assumption in our society that affairs are a symptom of problems in the marriage. This assumption is wrong. While problems in a marriage certainly cause those marriages to be more vulnerable to affairs, they are not the only reason.
Personal vulnerabilities (such as depression, insecurity, and work related stress) on behalf of the one having the affair also weigh in, as well as environmental influences, such as associating closely with people who are having affairs.
Worst of all, society seems to be ignoring the elephant in the room when it comes to reasons for infidelity; it’s enticing when a new person pays attention to you, no matter how great things are in your marriage.
The only one who can prevent YOU from having an affair is YOU, not your spouse. The only one who can prevent your spouse from having an affair is your spouse, not you. Your spouse is not a puppet on a string whom you can control by becoming “super need-meeter” spouse.
Of course women should work towards being good wives, as should men work towards being good husbands, but not under the assumption that by doing so you can prevent each other from cheating. We are all responsible for ourselves.
Is Gary Neuman’s research accurate and reliable? The Truth About Cheating - Why Men Stray and What You Can Do To Prevent It
Neuman's study is based on answers given by one hundred cheating men, most of them going through divorce, and still involved in their affairs. After having worked with hundreds of couples who have experienced infidelity, I have yet to talk with a cheating spouse caught up in the “temporary high” of an affair, whose judgment is not impaired. The smartest, most intelligent, most successful men, CEO’s of large corporations, literally do the craziest things, tell the craziest lies, and often throw away their families, reputations, careers, health, cash, and futures while caught up in the affair la la land. Should these people now be considered the source of “cutting edge” research?!!
Of course cheating men blame their wives! If they didn’t they would have to take a look at their own issues.
The other half of Neuman’s study included responses from men who had never had affairs. While these men certainly need to be commended for their faithfulness, they are still not authorities on why others cheat. One could’ve asked Brian his views on what kept him faithful seventeen years into our marriage and he certainly would’ve thought he had the answers. He was sure he would never have an affair. Affairs were against his moral code. We had measures in place to protect our marriage from affairs (stemming from the limited knowledge we had at the time), and we had a good marriage, so clearly this could not happen to us. Right?
We thought we had the answers, but we didn’t. Men who haven’t experienced affairs are not authorities on why men have affairs. A reliable study would ask men who had affairs, but had ended them and had healed or were working towards healing their marriages. To ensure accuracy these men would need to have had at least eighteen months of no contact with their affair partners. In the beginning all unfaithful spouses have a tendency to blame their spouses for their affairs. It is not until they have made things right and distanced themselves from their actions that they are able to think clearly, look back and make accurate assessments about why they cheated.
©Copyright 2005 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.
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