Affairs,infidelity,betrayal,adultery,forgiveness,relationships,relationship problems

Affairs-Blame is Only Part of the Answer

There is more to dealing with affairs than just blame. In this episode I will show you how affairs are a window into problems in the relationship.

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After almost 40 years of working to help couples, I offer a podcast of substance on what relationships require to last for the long haul. I use books & movies to illustrate the points I’m trying to make. I offer challenges of things you can actually do in your own relationship at the end of every podcast which is under 10 minutes.

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Affairs mean there are problems in relationships. As Shirley Glass recommends in her self help book “Not Just Friends” an affair can be a window into the relationship, not just a door slamming. I remember watching Elizabeth Edwards blaming “that woman” & saying she & presidential hopeful John were 100% happy & I remember thinking

We all love to pretend we are perfect in our primary relationship; especially in our current culture where appearances are everything. I’m more interested in the substance, what’s built into the infrastructure. It’s why I liked Grimm’s fairytales growing up they seemed more real than the black & white shows on t.v. It was boring back then to see the perfect Ward & June Cleaver in Leave it to Beaver. Real struggle is far more interesting and it’s the only way to create lasting relationships.

My favorite movie about affairs is “In the Mood for Love”. It’s from Hong Kong in the year 2000. It captures the complicatedness of two neighbors who become attached
& both find out their spouses are having affairs. They do not follow the same path & their love is doomed. Truly a beautiful story that should not be overlooked.

Often an affair can be like the warning a canary gives in the coal mine. If the affair is not a pattern of multiples over the years then it may be a ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ moment. Affairs can be an opportunity for real struggle.

Affairs call out for the crucial questions that often goes unaddressed “Who are we really with each other?” “What is missing” “Why have we been having sex once a month or less?” “How can things be improved for both of us?” “Why do we only talk about the kids?”

When these questions are not dealt with people go sideways to get their needs met, they spend money they don’t have & hide the evidence, they flirt to make thongs more interesting, they feel sick to get more attention & they have affairs.

You’ve heard the saying “You can go a day without sex but when was the last time you went a day without a good rationalization?” Our lives are so frantic that we find it easy to rationalize our real concerns into disappearing acts. It’s ok enough we say to ourselves, I’m too tired to talk, I’m too tired to have sex, I’m too tired to think about problems so let’s not………

Affairs can create the opportunity to really discuss underlying problems. Crisis can be opportunity for change.

Couples are under the false impression that if they find the courage to talk once or twice that’s more than enough. Put any two people together & their differences will be banging into each other like bumper cars in a carnival ride. Some differences require 25 to 150 conversations because we are chewing & digesting & being thoughtful about how to resolve the hard edges of differences.

Once the screaming & yelling dies down there can be an opportunity for hard truths to emerge:

The secret things that one person may have gone along with that they are very unhappy about. The stored up stockpile of resentments that went unadressed. “I’m tired of being house poor, I want to have another child, you never seemed to grieve about my miscarriage……the distance creeps in because the harsh truths were unspoken.

There is also the hurt of the betrayal that can not be ignored. Being lied to about where the other person was over & over creates a huge level of suspicion. Forgiveness takes time. I know someone who said to me “My wife seems really crabby & angry with me & I don’t know why” I said isn’t this the month she found out you had the affair last year? Anniversary reactions take time to evaporate.

Then there are the couples where the affair is not forgiven.
Too often I have couples that get destroyed because one partner gets stuck in the comforting posture of blame. The secret to recovery is when BOTH people can confront themselves and take a look at what was missing.

More than once, I’ve had a couple that hasn’t had sex in a decade, and I always warn them that if both of them weren’t in agreement over a celibate future, then one of them would surely step out. I’ve had people angry at me for saying it because they want to avoid the reality of it.

So one way to look at an affair is that things aren’t working. Instead of only pointing a finger, take the risk to look at what’s wrong and what’s missing. Affairs can be symptoms of deeper problems.

Challenge: This week’s challenge is to ask your partner how your sex life could be improved and share your own honest experience.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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