An unexpected email came in from a husband in desperation. He’s begun working on improving himself and wanted me to help get his wife into counseling with him.
His plea for help was one of him willing to do ‘anything‘. When I hear such pleas, I wonder ‘How far they are willing to go?’
A couple I once worked with comes to mind.They were in the middle of marriage problems, with her having several affairs.
The husband went so far as to babysit their children while the wife went on a date with another man. At the time she was testing him in the most severe manner in order to see if he really loved her. Was he really willing to do anything?
The couple eventually worked through their issues and were happily married at last report.
I wonder if the writer is willing to go that far? Claiming you are willing to do ‘anything’ can come true.
Tough challenges like this often mean tough choices. The man has to choose whether it’s more important to improve himself or get his wife back.
I’m sure she’ll test him to find out what his real motivation is. The choice between making improvement versus getting your spouse back is one I don’t wish on anyone.
Hurt spouses know when you are just going through the motions and acting like you’re changing. They want to know where your heart is truly at.
In searching for the most difficult topics for couples to discuss, I came across many answers. The topics of sex, children and money were noted.
Honorable mention was also given to politics and religion. Some brave souls went so far as bringing up your past, past relationships, death and a few others, including relationships themselves.
The complete list of difficult topics is likely larger than this. In considering the list of difficult topics I pondered what it is that makes them difficult to discuss.
I dismissed answers like limited knowledge or limited vocabulary. Those may limit how much you talk about them, but it doesn't explain what makes them difficult.
The simplest answer for me is fear. Many of these topics touch on personal fears at some level. When you bring them up, there are concerns about personal inadequacy and embarrassment, which are variations of fear.
So if fear is what makes some topics difficult to discuss, I next considered ways of moving past that. How can you move past fear?
Determination is a way of getting past fear. The problem is that it doesn't last as long as other solutions.
Although love is a good answer, it is one aspect of love that I think holds the key. That aspect is trust. When you trust your spouse and know they have your best interest in mind, it makes any conversation easier and safer.
Have you ever noticed the double-standard society has when it comes to talking about affairs and their trauma? That double-standard jumped out at me brighter than the neon lights at a Texas hill country ice house.
While attending a funeral in Houston, pastor John Morgan encouraged the grieving family to talk about their loved one. He pointed out how it helps talking about fond memories and what will be missed.
After pondering his words a few days, it struck me that when it comes to affair trauma, the rules change. Spouses are told to ‘keep it to themselves’. In some cases, they’re told in a semi-statement question “Haven’t you talked about the affair enough?”
So which is the best way of dealing with such a trauma?
Should you talk about it more or drop the matter after the cheater confesses and asks forgiveness?
In my mind, loss is loss. Overcoming losses require the same actions.
In each case you’re dealing with the ending of a relationship. You’re dealing with losing something important to you.
Although with the affair, there’s a sentiment that you’re only supposed to talk about it for a limited time. That limitation doesn’t make sense to me.
Talking about what happened to you is important in the healing. It takes time for your brain to readjust to the new situation you’re in.
Recent events in my life have reminded me about the importance of trust. Trust is so foundational to relationships, it's often taken for granted. Like the old 'you can't see the forest for the trees' saying, there are times you can't see the trust when it's right in front of you.
Relationships rely on trust, especially marriage. Even though trust is relied upon for a marriage to work, trust is rarely addressed until it's severely damaged or gone.
The foundations for your relationships may have some serious trust flaws that you've never realized. You've grown so accustomed to them, you didn't realize it.
You could have a marriage with huge trust flaws and not realize it. Your vulnerabilities are showing and you are oblivious.
The recent events made me consider how you show your spouse you trust them. Since actions speak louder than words, our actions regarding trust reveal how much we really trust each other.
It's one thing trusting your spouse with daily routine activities. It's quite another trusting them with money and things of value. Since they may not value it as highly as you do, you experience some hesitancy regarding trust.
Two of the areas where I see trust related conflicts are bank accounts and cell phones. If you can't trust your spouse with your phone and bank account, you have some serious trust issues that need attention.
It takes a tremendous amount of self-control for me to not speak out in response to all the foolishness on facebook. I’ve improved, yet have spent my time in ‘facebook jail’ along the way. I find myself getting passionate about some topics, including marriage and affairs.
It’s hard seeing misleading toxic statements in circulation with hashtags that are destructive to marriages. Those little cutesy sayings that are circulated that sound good on the surface, yet have more poison in them than you realize.
One I saw recently was #LoveIsLove. On the surface, it sounds nice and supportive. Although it’s used as a statement of support, on a closer look the sentiment is dangerous.
If all love has equal value, then the love of the cheater for the lover is of equal value to their love of you. I can’t fathom that the love of an affair is equal to marital love.
There’s also a hidden message that ‘if you love someone, anything goes’. If the cheater uses that sentiment, then you have trouble. Putting a ‘love’ label on a behavior doesn’t make it right.
When you start justifying right and wrong based on whether or not there’s anything you can call love, it makes for instability in your marriage. Imagine if your spouse started hitting or choking you ‘in the name of love’, would it suddenly make that behavior acceptable.
Lately I’ve found myself traveling more frequently. On arriving home, I’m never sure what surprises are waiting for me that my dogs have done.
One night, Peggy and I came home only to discover one of the burners on the stove turned on and our home several degrees hotter than the thermostat setting. One of our dogs inadvertently turned it on while counter surfing.
Although I don’t know which specific dog did it, I have a good idea, given that our coon hound is the most proficient at counter surfing. We’ve got a counter surfer, a chewer and blind opener. Together, they teach each other bad lessons.
Prior to unlocking the front door, I wonder, “what have the dogs done this time?” After the burner episode, I feel leery about leaving them alone.
I find myself hesitant about trusting them alone again after seeing what they can do.
It’s funny how after one incident like that I have a long-lasting apprehension. Although we now have quite a story to tell, it wasn’t fun when it happened.
In a similar manner one little incident or episode can take away your peace of mind. When it’s your spouse messing up rather than the dogs, things are personal.
It’s one thing when I’m uneasy about leaving the dogs alone. It’s quite another when you can’t leave your spouse alone or trust them by themselves.
Something is compelling me for a return to the “I didn’t learn anything new” comment left by a reader. In thinking through the feedback, it struck me that the search for the ‘new and improved’ creates problems.
Rather than trusting ‘tried and true’ approaches, many want the ‘new and improved’. That search for the ‘new and improved’ is likely what contributed to the affair in the first place.
The search for new and improved combines both a creation of dissatisfaction along with instilling fantasies about what new things will bring.
Advertisers work at creating dissatisfaction. They want you to go for the ‘new and improved’. They know that keeping you dissatisfied translates into sales for them.
They often want you to equate new with effortless and easy.
Affairs as a whole is about the search for something new. The cheater wants new adventures, new excitement and new love. Rather than doing maintenance on their marriage and overcoming problems, they instead look for something new.
The allure of anything new is appealing. Whether it’s a new car, new home, or new gadget. When something is new, you want to play with it. The initial excitement keeps you fascinated for a while.
When it comes to affairs, the ‘new‘ is more about entertainment. The cheater enjoys being fascinated and entertained. They are looking for sensual stimulation.
One of the old humorous sayings in the 19th century was "Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it". When the saying first appeared in an editorial in a Connecticut newspaper, it was unsigned.
The quote has been attributed to both Mark Twain and Charles Warner. Apparently people talk about the joke, but no one takes credit for it either.
I mention the weather joke since when the topic of affairs comes up, everyone talks about them, but few people do anything about them in making serious changes. This observation in the aftermath of attending a funeral.
While in the receiving line, I was asked what I do. On telling them that I help couples recover from affairs, I often received some affirming response followed by some version of "people need that".
It struck me that affairs are often discussed the same way medical conditions like cancer are discussed, with hushed voices and little self disclosure.
It amazes me how affairs are viewed as something that others need even when your own marriage may be at risk. Few of you want more affairs, yet are you going to do anything about them?
Are you making your marriage stronger? What are you doing that alleviates your spouse's secret fears? Do you even know what your spouse's secret fears are?
A reader wrote me from Vietnam about her situation. She stated, ” you forget to give advice to people like me. My husband abandoned me to the country of my birth while he travels“.
She went on explaining how her husband, who’s in the oil industry only shows up periodically and how she recently discovered he has a child with another woman. She is devastated by the discovery.
Affairs are bad enough, yet when there’s a child, it becomes more intense.
Although her situation highlights several issues, I’ll focus on one.
When a spouse is married to their job rather than to you and another is the issue of affairs across borders.
In terms of a spouse being married to their job, be it the oil field, ministry, military or healthcare they are at higher risk for affairs. Whether or not they intended their job to become a mistress, once it does, there are problems.
This mistress is demanding. When she calls, the spouse feels compelled in answering, no matter what time of day or night.
Under the excuse “the job demands it” or “they need me”, your spouse leaves you for their mistress.
These jobs are often demanding. Employers don’t help matters when they create a ‘workplace family’. The needs of the workplace family begin displacing the needs of their real family.
The other day, I received an email from a reader who claimed that they learned ‘nothing new’ from the material in the Affair Trauma video. I was glad hearing from her.
She raised a point that some of you may be struggling with. In the aftermath of an affair there is a hunger for more information.
In your desire for leaning something new, are you taking care of the basics? In always looking for new information, you may have forgotten doing the simple basic things needed in affair recovery.
When my youngest son played football, his coach was a two-time Superbowl veteran named Bruce. He drilled the players, like other coaches with a few differences.
One of those differences was mastery of the basics. He knew that mastering basic skills is critical in winning games more than fancy sophisticated plays.
He knew that when you master the basics, you are not only training your body, you’re training your mind. You are also improving your speed in executing basic moves.
Sure, he knew fancy plays, yet knew from experience that master of the basics of such things as footwork and knowing how to get up won games. Super Bowls are won one game at a time and each game is won by mastering the basics.
When facing a trauma, mastering the simple things is key in getting past them. Simple things like getting out of bed, getting exercise and breathing correctly go a long way.