Listening and containing pain:
He looked at me, worn out and tired. Like a prize fighter in the ninth round.“I give up, this is too hard. Yes I had an affair, but I just can’t hear one more time how I’ve hurt her. I’m over it and ready to move on in my marriage. She should be over it by now.”
“What’s the hardest part of all of this for you?” I asked.
“I already feel bad enough about myself. I cannot take one more reminder of how bad I am.”
So I said, “Then you may not have the strength, courage and fortitude to recover from an affair.”
“What do you mean?” He inquired.
I leaned forward and softly but firmly said, “There is a price to pay… to recover from an affair… you must be willing to listen to her and contain her pain… for a long time to come.”
Often, people who have affairs are trying to escape the reality of pain through the affair. They are pain averse and seek ways to medicate pain. They would rather avoid it as opposed to being honest and direct about the problems in the relationship. So this part of the process is particularly hard… that is, to accept the consequences of their actions and be willing to earn back the love and trust of their spouse over a long period of time. This is the opposite of impulsivity and instant gratification which distract us from reality. For my client, this meant learning to sit in pain (his and hers) and accept the fact that he had done something that caused tremendous pain in his spouse… and in his kid’s lives. No escaping it.
Oh, it is easier to get a divorce, and start over with someone who idealizes you. Why?
Because “badness” is taken away when I am idealized by another person. But is it reality or is it a temporary salve that will wear off someday?
Thanks for listening.
Love and Blessings,
Milan & Kay