They sat in my office… dazed and confused as if there had been a death… and there had. A few days prior, the truth was finally revealed, the secret exposed… one of them had become romantically involved with someone else.
The truth was told and the deceit finally exposed. As a victim walking away from a serious traffic collision or an exhausted swimmer plucked out of the Hudson River after their jet landed in a place where it wasn’t supposed to be… the shock, and disorientation made it difficult for either one of them to speak.
I wish I could say this was rare, but over the years, I’ve seen and heard countless numbers of couples that had been in the same place… traumatized by infidelity.
“When did your plane begin to lose power and altitude?” I asked.
Through squinted eyes and a quizzical look, one of them eventually speaks up and said “What do you mean?” I responded, “I’m asking when did your marriage begin to decline and what was the state of your relationship that caused one of you to become discontent?”
If a couple is ever going to recover from an affair, the very first place I must take them is to the bedrock of honesty, for it is only on the stability of bedrock that something strong can be built. Within the first session, my goal is to find out the honest truth about two things… did they ever have a secure marriage and what are the affections still remaining for the person with whom they had the affair.
In our opinion, most marriages are average at best. While a husband and wife may love each other very much, practically speaking most couples aren’t very close emotionally and relationally. They may desire that, but internal reactivity based upon past hurts, keeps people relationally distant. All that needs to occur for things to go south is for one of them to meet someone with whom talking and connection feels easy and fun. Without the stress of every day life and the tensions that bring disagreement, connection seems effortless. This then becomes the basis for emotional and physical attachment.
While we do have to discuss many of the practical issues and problems than now must be sorted out, my biggest focus is truth about the real state of the marriage prior to the affair and each person’s contribution to that weakened state. No… I’m not excusing bad behavior, or saying that we have a hall pass to sin. I am saying that each played a part in a weak and shaky foundation.
In this particular case, he was a vacillator and she was an avoider and each was exhausted after fifteen years of pursuit and distancing; chasing and explaining; shutting down and pouting; exploding and raging.
“The care free conversations were so refreshing… we didn’t start out planning to have an affair… it just happened.”
Yes, bonding and affection does grow out of intimate and transparent conversations.
The second place of honesty must involve the honest confession and admission of what feelings still remain for the affair partner. As difficult as it is for both people to hear, we can’t pretend that emotions don’t still exist. Once bonding has occurred, it is not easily blotted away or stamped out. It will take time for affections to wane… a reality that both must accept and learn to deal with.
While the Bible tells us to “Flee from youthful lusts (II Tim. 2:22)” it takes time… for another death has occurred that must be grieved. While this scenario is fictitious, and the story a compilation of many couples, the dialogue is what takes place within the first session in my office when a couple comes in to recover from an affair.
How about you? What is the real state of your marriage? With whom have you developed unhealthy emotions?
The choice is yours… you can let this story shake you up enough to take action or … you can postpone the inevitable.
Thanks for listening.
Love and Blessings,
Milan & Kay