Patterns

Some people have one affair in their lifetime. They feel the pain of their actions, wake up and recognize this is not something they will ever do again, and keep their word. Some people are habitual affair-havers. It’s a good idea to figure out which one you are. If you’re in the once-in-a-lifetime category (oncers) you have a lot less work to do than if you are in the habitual category.

To the ‘oncers’, make sure you have a good support team around you so you don’t end up down the affair road again. Get into a recovery program and/or counseling. Don’t get into the dangerous self-righteous thinking that can numb you from the reality of what you are capable of doing. Stay in touch with the part of you that can trample on yourself and all those you love. There’s a careful balance between healthy recognition of what we’ve done and not beating ourselves up for it. Find that balance, and stay there. When you start beating yourself up, forgive yourself again, look at the fact that you stopped the behavior and are on a path toward being healthy and good to yourself and those you love. When you start getting pompous about how you are no longer engaged in an affair, remind yourself that you are on thin ice and could slip at any moment given the right circumstances. Carefully walk back to balance: recognition of what you have done and your committment to not doing that again.

To those of you who have engaged in more than one affair encounter I strongly urge you to work with a therapist who specializes in sexual addictions. You cannot heal from this alone. You will need the guidance of a skilled clinician. If you don’t get this help, you will not change. There is something deep inside of you that needs to be brought into the light, loved in a healthy way, supported in a healthy way and healed. For yourself and those you love, address this issue head on.

Affairs Selfish? Yes! Only About You? No!

I will get to the topic but first…My goal is to post on this blog on Mondays. It’s Tuesday. Last week I didn’t post anything. My life has changed in the last 12 days. My 21 year old daughter has a nasty disease called cystic fibrosis (cf). She was diagnosed when she was four weeks old. There is nothing good about cf. It is a genetic disorder that causes the mucous to be thick and sticky. Any organ or system in the body that has mucous is affected. The worst areas for my daughter are her lungs and digestive system. Her pancreas is blocked so she has to give herself insulin injections (similar to diabetes, she has cystic fibrosis related diabetes). Her body doesn’t efficiently absorb nutrients and calories from food so she takes enzymes to help but still has a hard time gaining weight. Her lungs are the most profoundly affected. Her airways have been blocked by mucus and damaged by viruses and bacteria. She now has about 23% lung capacity and 12 days ago we learned she needs a double lung transplant to survive.

She wants to live. For the first time in her life she wants to fight to survive. She has dreams of going back to college and living with her best friend, pursuing a career, running a 10K, even vacuuming. Yep, she wants to vacuum and do all the basic things we do nearly every day that she has not had the energy to do. BUT she has to live long enough to get a transplant and survive the transplant. There are no guarantees in the transplant world. One plug: Make sure you are on the organ donor registry!!! There are so many people waiting for organs!!! You could give life to another person. I don’t want people to die. That is not my hope. It’s just that we are all going to die some day and even in our passing, others might get the chance to live.

In honor of my daughter, I’m going to post her hopes for those of you engaged in an affair. She thinks it’s selfish. When people have affairs, we are only thinking about ourselves. What we want, what feels good to us. Now, there are really good philosophies out there about living our own lives, within our boundaries, doing things we like and staying away from things we don’t like. Within healthy boundaries, we will not live our lives for others but for ourselves. I am responsible for living my own life but I am responsible to others to some degree. If I hurt another human being I must look within myself and ask myself if I have some responsibility to this person and his pain. If I say I don’t want to be in relationship with you and you feel sad, you are responsible for how you feel. I am responsible for saying something that caused you pain but I do not need to stay in a relationship with you so you feel better. If I have taken marriage vows in which I state clearly that I will remain faithful to my husband and I engage in an intimate relationship with another person, I am responsible for the betrayal I brought to my husband. I am not responsible for how my husband reacts, but I am responsible for my actions that brought betrayal into our marriage.

In our culture it is not acceptable to deceive or betray others. It happens a lot so we have become somewhat numb to lying and betraying, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. Within basic morality set in the hearts of humanity, lying and betrayal are met with a negative response. You are responsible for your actions, for your emotions and your thoughts. You are responsible to others and the way you treat them. My daughter would add that if you have children or the person you are having an affair with has children, you are responsible to the children as well. Affairs have a ripple effect: the two who are involved in the affair, the spouses, the children, families, friends, co-workers… You end up being responsible to a lot of people. An affair is selfish yet it isn’t just about you.

Stop!

I find the whole affair topic really depressing. Do people ever listen to advice or learn from those who have gone down the road before them? If anyone reading this has actually heeded the advice of others and stopped an unhealthy behavior or decision will you please put something in the comments? Are we all just so hard headed that we have to plow a hundred miles an hour into a brick wall when, just before we head into the wall we see people walking away from the wall, bloodied beyond recognition, clearly in agonizing pain warning us to change course? Are we all really that stupid? Sorry, I know stupid is a strong word but I simply cannot think of anything more kind to say.

I was that person. Everyone told me to stop, that I was hurting myself, my children, my husband, my family, the other person, his wife, his family, friends and co-workers. I did not listen to anyone. I didn’t hear from anyone who had been in an affair and suffered painful consequences…would that have changed my direction? I don’t know. I do know I was hard-hearted and so certain that my story was different. It wasn’t and neither is yours.

Warning: Please don’t be like me. Listen to my words and those of many other bloggers who have had an affair and are doing their best to let you know it’s not worth it!

Side-effects

The main point of this blog is to share my experiences with my affair hoping that I can help at least one person to not start or get out of an affair. So here’s this weeks bit.

One of the side-effects I experienced as a result of my affair was the loss of respect. I lost the respect of my children, my family, friends and of course my now ex-husband. I also deal with the stigma of being a cheater. Sure, people who meet me now (post-affair and post-the biggest part of my healing process) don’t think of me as a cheater because they are meeting the softer, repentant me. Those who knew me when I was having my affair remember the sucked-in-by-the-lie unrepentant me. It’s just a sad reality of the life of one who has had an affair. In the end, my affair really wasn’t worth that. It was temporarily satisfying in many ways and I was certain this man was the man of my dreams…ultimately, he wasn’t. I was left with the stigma of being a cheater and little else. Wish I could hit rewind and get a do-over. Knowing what I know now, I would stay far away from even the most perfectly-for-me man…he’s not worth it!

The Perfect Partner Myth

Right now, you might be thinking that the person you are having an affair with is the answer to your relationship problems. Your husband or wife can’t fulfill your needs and desires like your affair partner. While some of this might be true, the belief that someone is meant to fulfill you is a lie. That’s my take. From the research I have done and in my own experience, I have come to understand that many of us have been duped. Movies, TV and books perpetuate the idea that we have to find our soul mate. We equate soul mate with a person who we get along with perfectly. If the person we are with isn’t doing everything that makes us happy then we think it’s time to find the one who will. You will be searching for the rest of your life and in the end, you will have no one. Relationships are messy and difficult at times. Rather than cheat on your spouse, get help. Find a good couples’ therapist or attend a marriage intensive (check out ER4Love.com). Give it your all. Drop your affair partner and invest 110% in this. This means you have zero contact with your affair partner and zero intention of contacting him or her. You may need some help with this piece before you get help for your marriage. If, after true effort, your marriage is irreparable then get a divorce before you get involved with someone else. I’m not an advocate for divorce but if you’re choosing between cheating and divorce…pick divorce. Also, get into counseling to figure out your issues before you get involved with someone else.

One Step, One Breath, One Moment at a Time

I love some of the recovery recommendations that come out of Alcoholics Anonymous. One in particular is the concept that we deal with life and recovery one day at a time or even one moment at a time. That can be really helpful advice to those who are working toward getting out of an affair. If we focus on too much at a time, we may become discouraged and quit. Keep your thoughts planted firmly on this moment, right now. What do you need to do to get through this moment? Do you need to call a friend to distract yourself from contacting your affair partner? Do you need to go for a walk, listen to good music, or get distracted with a craft or activity? Do you need to forgive yourself for slipping up? Each moment, each breath is a new opportunity to make a healthy choice.

You can get through this one step, one breath and one moment at a time.

Surrender

I was reading an article about affairs. The author said the betrayed shouldn’t be surprised they have been cheated on, that having an affair is the norm not an anomaly. At first I was angry about that statement. After some thought and continuing with the article, I realized the author was simply stating the obvious, we are selfish and monogamy is not easy. Part of our challenge in life is saying no to things we may desire in order to say yes to ultimately healthier options. When I was having an affair, I was not saying no to an illicit relationship and unfortunately not saying yes to my marriage.

I have a friend who, at times in her life, practices saying no. She prays about what she believes God wants her to say no to and then abstains for a month. What I like about this is the element of surrender. She recognizes her natural inclination is to deny herself nothing, then voluntarily goes to her knees and surrenders the “self”. At first it seemed strange but now, I see the beauty in it.

Are you choosing something in your life today that is indicative of the purely selfish part of you? Want to be different? Surrender.