Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Infidelity Survival: How to Stop the Affair Upon Discovery of the Infidelity

Quite often, it is the case that you cannot directly stop the affair. In actuality, the harder you try to get your cheating spouse to stop the affair, the more unlikely that the affair will indeed end. Especially for the affair type: "I fell out of love...and just love being in love", a direct assault will often backfire and result in the affair couple actually escalating their contact or emotional involvement. But, you do stand a chance, and sometimes a very good chance of influencing the cessation of the affair if you are smart! Being smart about it means taking some time to stand back, assess the type of affair and then plan a course of action that might get you the results you want. Or, at least, by taking some calculated action, you will feel more empowered, and feel better about yourself.

Now, standing back is very difficult for most. The intensity of the pain and agony usually drives one to revert to old patterns that sometimes (most often, probably) worked in certain situations to alleviate the
pain (supposedly) and/or gain a measure of control. For example, when feeling the fear of being displaced or of losing something of vital importance, a person may lash out, become aggressive. Watch out! S/he externalizes all the built-up emotions and energy. S/he rants and raves. S/he threatens (to throw him or her out...even though that is not at all what s/he truly wants), s/he pushes, prods, asks questions unendingly and begs, pleads, cries... all to no avail. These reactions trigger in the spouse a desire to flee. Or, the wounded spouse may use the tactic of internalizing and withdraw. S/he suffers the pain within, and then may become depressed and assume the role of victim. Others become concerned about his/her mental and emotional well-being, and what s/he might do. The loud message is: "care for me." Out of guilt, the cheating spouse may move close but there will be smoldering anger that will eventually destroy the marriage or relationship.

Please understand that these reactions are instinctive. No real thought is given to wonder "why am I doing this? Where does this come from?" Under the pain of the discovery of infidelity many go back to the default pattern of emotionally caring for one's self. And undoubtedly, these patterns will only create further distance. Part of what I teach those impacted by infidelity is to step back and see the
patterns. Difficult? Not really.

Most of us just don't realize that there even are different patterns. Once this awareness sinks it... and it doesn't take very long... a person feels empowered. "Hmmm, I DO have c hoices? Wow! What a relief." (I regularly receive emails from those who have read my 7 types of affairs and different strategies for each, who comment on the amazing shift in their feelings after they have digested the 7 types of affairs.)

At that point, one stops reacting (by externalizing, pushing and being aggressive or... by internalizing and playing the victim role), steps back, re-evaluates the situation, and finally begins a pursuit of that which WILL work to change the course of herself or himself, and ultimately influence the nature of the affair. Let me give you a few examples of how this works.

Affair #6 is "I Need to Prove My Desirability." There is an underlying belief of one's relational and sexual inadequacy that goes back in time. Often the person encountered some form of sexual abuse or extreme sexual confusion as a child/teenager. When the wounded spouse discovers the affair, s/he may aggressively approach the cheating spouse. There may be name calling. S/he may verbally assault him/her. There might be demands to end the affair. The cheating spouse then withdraws into his or her feelings of inadequacy and the sexual acting out may continue.

In reality, the greatest chance for the wounded spouse to stop the affair is simply to listen. Yes, that's right. Open the door so the cheating spouse can talk. Acknowledge his or her sense of inadequacy. Easy? No. But, often well worth it. Or, Affair #4 "I Fell out of Love... and just love being in love." This is the classic emotional affair. And, of course, the wounded spouse may feel exceptionally inadequate as a person, as a love r, and as a spouse - and may then incessantly seek out assurance from the cheating spouse. This generally repels the cheating spouse and then s/he jumps right back into the arms of his/her lover. (And, they have juicy conversations about the "crazy" behavior of the spouse at home - now I understand why you want an affair!)

Once the wounded spouse stands back and learns, s/he realizes that the best strategy may be to back off. After all, this type of affair is based on an attempt to redo a stifled adolescent love life. And like an adolescent, the "in love" feelings have a shelf life, sometimes not very long. In affair #2 "I Don't Want to Say No" the wounded spouse is often used to deferring to his/her spouse. S/he may tolerate a large degree of emot ional distance in the marriage and may also put up with a great deal of acting out behavior on the part of his/her spouse, including an affair, or series of affairs. The wounded spouse "swallows."

The wounded spouse may have influence if s/he begins to employ behavioral consequences, to the point in which the cheating spouse is in grave danger of losing a great deal. Then, the wounded spouse takes action, as s/he never has before. infidelity is exceptionally complex. And the act of infidelity arouses intense emotions.

Instead of being lost in knee-jerk reactions and emotions, it most often pays off to step back, evaluate the type of affair you're dealing with, and then, with new-found confidence and power, try out some new behaviors that might stop the affair.

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