Archives for January 2008

Why Good People Suddenly Have an Extramarital Affair

Never in a million years did you expect this! Never in a million years did family, friends, neighbors, social, work and church acquaintances expect this! Never! Everyone is in shock. No can believe s/he is doing this. An affair – not in anyone’s wildest imaginations.

S/he was a truly good, caring person. S/he was reliable and responsible. A good parent. A good spouse. A good partner. S/he was liked by most and got along with people. Always accommodating. Always considerate. Willing to go the extra mile. The two were often referred to as the “perfect couple.”

White picket fence. Mini-van always on the go. A typical happy family. Seemingly having it all!

And now it’s discovered that s/he is having an affair. What in the world is going on???

Actually, this is a fairly common scenario. At least, I, as an infidelity coach, run into this pattern on a frequent basis.

Here are some observations on this extramarital affair pattern:

1. Such infidelity is often with someone of a “lower social class.” The OP (other person) is thought of by many as a “loser.” The OP may have a history of unstable relationships. Often substance abuse is in the picture. The two of them together certainly, to most, seem to be a gigantic miss-match.

2. The feelings and emotional tug and pull of the affair is for him/her extremely powerful. S/he may say that for the first time s/he is “in love.” S/he may say to the spouse, “I love you, but am not ‘in love’ with you.” One is reminded of affair #4 in Break Free From the Affair, “I fell in love…and just love being in love.” S/he cannot or chooses not to explain the affair in any other terms other than “I’m in love.”

3. S/he seems to live in two worlds. To others s/he does an amazing job of moving from one world to another. S/he continues to parent, work and fulfill responsibilities, although at times it seems as if s/he is not really “there.”

4. S/he may express anger, especially at the partner or spouse, although it may be rather indirect. It emerges typically as affair #1: “The Marriage Made me Do it.” The spouse may be incredulous as s/he hears him/her saying, “The marriage was lousy. You never paid attention to me. You did this. You did that.” Etc. Most of these “issues” were not previously addressed.

5. If there is a degree of awareness on his/her part, s/he may disclose: “I need to find out who I really am. And, I feel like I can be myself with the OP.” S/he is, in reality, devoid of an inner core or self. S/he spent most of her/his energy accommodating others, basing his/her actions on what s/he thought others or society expected. Bottom line: s/he gives tremendous power to others, especially those of the opposite sex to define who s/he is, especially as a psycho-sexual being. S/he lacks an internal compass.

6. S/he is on a path of self-destruction. This is obvious to everyone but him/her. Again, if there is a degree of awareness, s/he may admit: “Yes, I know this might not work out, but I can’t help it.”

7. S/he may express little remorse. This comes as a huge surprise and shock to those who know him/her best. S/he is compelled to continue contact with the OP and a part of her/him is convinced this is something s/he MUST do. Damn the torpedoes. Straight ahead. And, s/he spends insignificant time apologizing.

So, what gives in this kind of affair?

In talking to probably hundreds of people facing this scenario and inquiring about their history and his/her history a persistent theme emerges.

S/he at one point in his/her life experienced some form of abuse. Often it was sexual in nature, such as rape, incest at worst and great confusion regarding sexuality at a minimum.

S/he spent tremendous energy compartmentalizing this experience(s). S/he with great determination tried to “put it away.” S/he worked hard trying to be “normal.”

S/he watched others and listened closely to what society ideally expects so s/he could become a “good person.” (A basic tenet of abuse: the victim comes to believe “there is something wrong with me. I must be defective”)

The spouse/partner perhaps knew of the abuse but s/he relayed the story in an off-hand manner. The emotional intensity was camouflaged.

And now the hidden and minimized emotional intensity spews forth and now s/he must cope along with family, friends, spouse.

Infidelity Strategy: How and When to Wait

What do you do? What do you say? Do you blast? Do you try to be nice and “win him/her back? Do you withdraw? Do you throw him/her out? Do you wait, hoping somehow s/he will come to his/her senses?

These are hugely important questions that impact the course of your healing and your capacity to change the flow of the affair, if indeed, it can be changed. You want your strategy to be well thought through and have the greatest impact.

You want no knee-jerk reaction that will dig your hole deeper, do you?

And, believe me, the answers to these questions are not clear cut. They are complex.

Let’s talk about waiting.

I had a coaching call with Sue (part of my audio tape series) in which Sue described beautifully the three stages of waiting as you cope with marital infidelity.

The first waiting is usually for your spouse to change.

You are hoping either that you will wake up and find that this was nothing more than a bad nightmare (part of the shock of discovery) or that s/he will see the error of his/her ways and become sane once again.

Typically, you focus on your cheating partner and/or the other person. That’s all you think about. That’s all you feel. It consumes you!

Now let’s be realistic here. If you have a marriage where you are invested, emotionally, financially, etc. it will be next to impossible to avoid this agony.

Yes, you will go off the deep end, a little; maybe a lot. You engage in most of the “Killer Mistakes that prolong the affair and your misery” I outline in my e-course. Your minutes are marked by confusion and awful pain.

And then you move to the second phase of waiting: waiting for you to be comfortable enough with you and the situation to do exactly what you need to say and do that will have the greatest benefit for you and the relationship. You get smart.

It begins when you learn that there are 7 kinds of infidelity. It begins when you discover what it was that drove your spouse to make such a horrible decision.

It begins when you discover that his/her personal characteristics match exactly the kind of affair s/he is having. It begins when you realize that it was HIS/HER decision and had very little to do with you.

It begins when you discover that you are not alone: a world of people share your pain and experience of coping with infidelity and have successfully designed new lives and relationships better than they had before.

It begins when you realize the huge reservoir of your personal power you want to unleash.

It begins when you intentionally charge neutral and experience those around you paying close attention to who you are, want you want, what you will and will not tolerate.

And then you enter the third phase of waiting: waiting for the infidelity process to work itself to completion.

From what you’ve learned about the kinds of infidelity, with great forethought and preparation, you begin to intervene.

You’ve determined the kind of affair you face and know what best to do and say. You act and speak with force. S/he truly hears you and you begin to see different responses, different reactions.

Knowing the kind of affair, enables you to set a time line. You have a rough idea of how long the process will take.

You are on the way. You continue to learn. You continue to adjust your words and actions to have their greatest impact.

You begin enjoying yourself. You are no longer concerned about waiting. Your life begins to unfold in mysterious and joyful ways. You can stand back and marvel at your journey, and yes, even give thanks for where you have been.

Now, I want you to know that what I’ve written above is not a pipe dream. I work with people regularly who move through these stages of waiting. And, the quicker they start, the faster they move.

But, don’t take my word for it. I suggest you listen to Sue explain her waiting and healing process. She describes it beautifully and with great passion.

I have her on audio, and you can grab it now. She’s part of my audio tape series: 19 Live Infidelity Coaching Sessions.