Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

31 Reasons to Stop an Affair: Part 2

31 reasons stop an affair part 2
3 Part Series:

If you’re just joining us, last week we opened up the discussion of 31 Reasons to Stop an Affair. This week we continue with Part 2, reasons 11 through 20. Your comments, both public and private, to my staff and I have been more than encouraging and supportive of just the first 10 reasons.  We hope you’ll find the courage you need in reasons 11-20:

11.  What about Integrity?

The American College Dictionary defines integrity as "soundness of moral principle and character; uprightness; honesty." Infidelity is not about integrity, it is about compromising what we know to be right. Most likely, I cannot tell you anything you don't already know. All I can do is speak to the truth you already know. We don't need someone telling us right from wrong because we already know it. What we know to be right lies in the very core of our being, and it feels unacceptable. We are afraid if we follow that standard we’ll never be happy. So instead of following what we know to be right, we begin to search for ways to get around that which stands between us and what we want to do. Denial is one of the most powerful ways to get around what we know is right. We create an illusion that "we are god," and therefore we are the ones who get to determine good and evil. If we can rationalize and convince ourselves of that lie, then what we want and what happens to us become all that is important.  At the same time, our double standard is exposed by our efforts to convince ourselves that what we want is of paramount importance . We reveal the existence of truth by hiding our actions. Why else do we keep our actions secret? If we truly believed what we are doing is right and good, then why do we fear exposure? Integrity is about doing the right thing and following what we know to be true. Anything short of doing what we know is right never works. The self-centeredness at the core of that compromise is not about the love of others, but is based on selfishness and pride, and is a force that will destroy us and those we love. The course of personal compromise for the sake of our own comfort and happiness ultimately leads to self-obsession. Integrity, on the other hand, leads to a blessing, not only for us, but for others in our lives as well. Doing the right thing may not resolve all the problems in our lives, but it leads to inner peace.

12.  Affairs result in less intimacy, not more.

Most people who are involved in an affair claim it is easier to be intimate with their affair partner than with their mate, but in reality it’s a comparison of apples and oranges. Intimacy is the ability to be totally transparent— to be known fully by another. In Genesis 2:25, the closing verse states, "the two were naked and they felt no shame." This is a great definition of intimacy, for it is about man and woman being able to fully share all of who they are— their dreams, their hopes, their fears, their love, and their positives as well as their negatives. The intimacy experienced outside a marital relationship, however, is different than intimacy in a marriage. The intimacy of an affair or of a couple dating is an “other’s validated intimacy.” In those relationships, as one begins to reveal themself to another, they are almost always rewarded by the other person revealing certain aspects of their life in return. They are literally validated for their attempts at intimacy and this results in a newfound feeling of closeness, and of finally being understood by another. Even as one shares the worse parts of him or herself, the other person generally will respond by validating them or by sharing the worse parts of who they are. In a relationship based on validation, partners feel it is safe to share what they think and what's important because they agree on almost all of the important issues and even if they can't agree, they are at least able to come to a point where they can agree to disagree without much effort. Outside of a marriage, it is easier to embrace differences.

Marriage, however, radically changes the dynamic. Once we cross into a marital relationship there is a paradigm shift. Now, instead of two individuals searching for the ways their differences complement one another, they feel the pressure to become one. Most married people begin to define the quality of their relationship with their ability to be on the same page, to agree on issues, to see things the same way, and to be who their mate needs them to be. When there is a difference, instead of it drawing a couple closer, it creates tension and pushes them apart. It is in this paradigm that intimacy takes an interesting twist, for instead of creating closeness and validation, it now creates short-term instability. Each time someone reveals who they are, if it is different than their mate believes them to be, it creates a tension. Each time they disagree on an important issue, they are threatened and afraid they will never have life the way they wanted it to be. Inside marriage, intimacy becomes self-validated, and it takes integrity and personal strength to share fully who you are; to be authentic even when the other may not approve. For example, I've always believed the most intimate thing a person can do in their marriage is to share with their mate they are having an affair. With that statement, you are exposing yourself, revealing something they may not know (and most likely will not be happy about), but at the same time, you are exercising the integrity to be real. Paradoxically, intimacy in marriage generally does not create immediate closeness. However, in the long run, it can lead to growth, maturity, love, true intimacy, and a strong connection.

As you can see, intimacy in the marriage differs from that in an affair. Validated intimacy is easy and carries little or no risk, but intimacy in a marriage requires integrity, while providing the soil for personal and marital growth. Marriage becomes the place where a person develops character and personal strength. The intimacy of an affair isn't intimacy at all, it's just the longings of two individuals caught up in romanticism and infatuation. True intimacy can never be experienced until the paradigm of two being one is set in place by a marriage; then, and only then, can a person begin experiencing true intimacy.

13.  It is just a drug.

When I have a headache, I take aspirin. I hate to feel bad and I do all I can to avoid pain. In fact, one of the core values of our culture is comfort. We consume drugs to avoid both physical and emotional pain. To us, that feels as normal as breathing. We strive to make our jobs and lives more comfortable with better homes, designer furniture, luxury cars, and ergonomic design. In our lives we want comfort, and as a result, we lose the notion of how to live life with a little discomfort. Once, while visiting with a fellow therapist, I asked how successful he had been in working with opiate addicts. He asked, “Do you know what I've found true about that addiction? They are all wimps! They've lost the ability to tolerate pain.” Similarly, in some aspects, those involved in sexual addiction and affairs use their behavior as a sedative. Sexual addiction creates a powerful bio-chemical rush that in many ways is similar to controlled substances and becomes one drug of choice.

14.  Dream weaver.

People rationalize an affair with ideas like, “my family doesn't deserve to have to put up with me,” or “I'm too dangerous, so I'm better off having the affair.” It’s not your place to make that call for others. Happiness is not the only goal of a marriage, it is also about commitment, growing up, and the promises we made to our spouse. If your mate were to leave and go with another, he or she may or may not be better off. And consequently, how do you evaluate "better off" anyway? Maybe a lifetime of marriage with you might help develop grace and mercy in your spouse. Maybe it is just the right environment for growth— both yours and theirs. Besides, what makes you think you are so great at fortune telling? If you were, you probably would have already made it big at the horse races. You never can tell how things may or may not turn out, so don't deceive yourself into believing you can.

15.  Your actions will not result in long-term happiness, love or acceptance.

One of the core beliefs of those involved in affairs is that they deserve to be loved, and that they deserve to be loved perfectly, and that somehow this “right” justifies betrayal. The truth, however, is that we are all imperfect beings, and no matter how good we think we are, it's never good enough. Consequently, in the imperfect state of others, they will always fail to respond perfectly to us in their love. Just as we ask ourselves these questions, so do they; What do other people want from us? Don't they also want love and acceptance? How long can either party go before the pressures of life squeeze us and cause us both to fail in our expression of love? At that moment, do they deserve to be loved, and are they easy to love? And if not, are they able to sense your frustration with them and do they begin to feel inadequate and unloved? And if you fail at loving them perfectly, are they likely to begin to withdraw from you, only to leave you feeling alone and unacceptable?

I firmly believe that the pursuit of personal happiness, love or acceptance in a marriage will end up at the same place— frustration and failure. At the core of the problem are the faulty beliefs of “I deserve to be loved,” and “I deserve to be loved perfectly.” We fail to realize how difficult it is to just love ourselves, and if we can't even truly love ourselves, how can we expect others to love us? We need to recognize the falsehood of pursuing love based on what we deserve (if your actions have been like mine you deserve death not love). Our pursuit of love is actually driven by the void that is at the core of each of us. The solution to this problem isn't to find someone who can love you better, or find someone who is easier to love, but instead to look to a more stable source for love.

David Wilcox wrote a song titled "A Break in the Cup" that addresses this problem:

I try so hard to please you. To be the love that fills you up.
I try to put on sweet affection, but I think that you've got a broken cup.
Because you can't believe I love you, I try to tell you that there's no doubt.
But as soon as I fill you with all I've got, that little break will let it run right out.
I cannot make you happy; I'm learning love and money never do,
But I can pour myself out until I'm empty trying to be just who you want me to.
But I cannot make you happy, even though our love is true
For there is a break in the cup that holds love inside of you.
 
Now I begin to understand you, as you explain this fear you feel.
It's when you see me fall into that sorrow; it makes you doubt the love is real.
Because the lonely wind still blows through me I turn away so you can't see.
But now how could I still be so empty, with all this love you pour out on me?
I guess you cannot make me happy, that's a money back guarantee.
But you can pour yourself out ‘ til you're empty, trying to be just who I want you to be.
You cannot make me happy; it’s just the law of gravity
In that break in the cup that holds love inside of me.

 

So if you’re tempted to rescue me from drowning in this quick sand up to my neck
Before you grab my hand to save me why don't you ask me if I'm finished yet.
Because you cannot make me happy, not when I'm empty inside of me
But you can pull yourself right in here with me,
My misery would love to have your company.
 
Here's the main point:
We cannot trade empty for empty. We must go to the waterfall
For there is a break in the cup that holds love inside us all.

 

My suggestion is quit looking for the wrong source and discover what it means to go to the waterfall.

16.  Think again.

Several years ago I spoke with a woman who came in specifically to see if I could talk her out of what she was about to do. She had a fifteen-year marriage and three kids, and had met a man in another state with whom she had fallen in love. Her husband knew nothing of the long distance affair, but he was certainly aware of their marital problems. Her husband had also been unfaithful throughout their marriage with the use of pornography and prostitutes. When she discovered his infidelity 18 months earlier, she had been devastated, and lost all hope for their marriage and all feelings of affection. He, on the other hand, had gone through a radical transformation. He entered therapy, attended 12-step groups, and had seemingly turned his life around. She acknowledged he had changed, but was still too bitter over his betrayal to reconnect with him. At the same time, she didn't want to divorce him because of their children and history together. Now she was about to give up her marriage for someone she was sure was her soul mate, her other, her perfect match. Her affair partner was a married man with children who had also been trapped in an unhappy marriage for a number of years. The two had met online and nurtured their “perfect relationship” via the internet, calling cards, and an occasional weekend rendezvous. Now after two months of the “perfect relationship,” she was ready to leave her marriage and marry the “perfect man.” She was asking if I could see any reasons why she shouldn't carry out her plan. I asked how she knew this person was the perfect man.

In reality, it is impossible to know who a person is in just two months, and it is certainly difficult to determine what a person will be like in a marriage, based on how they act during courtship when they are putting their best self forward. But the bigger question in my mind is whether this is the person you would choose given different circumstances. Affairs are often fueled by miserable marriages where the marital deficits are used as a justification for infidelity. They are a reaction to the desire to convince ourselves that our mate will never meet our needs. That makes the majority of affairs reactive in nature. After I asked if she was sure this was the one, I painted a different scenario. What if she divorced her husband, grew her business, bought her own house, and built a new life with pride; is this the man she'd choose? When she wasn't in a state of need, why choose a man who was willing to betray his wife, and who had his own baggage? I told her I found it ironic that she had managed to find another man who, like her husband, was willing to cheat on his wife to get his needs met. Is that what she wanted, to be with a man who exhibited the same pattern as her husband, but had yet to enter recovery? Was she doing better with her new choice? Does the phrase “out of the frying pan and into the fire” mean anything to you? Who we have an affair with is never an independent, rational decision, but rather a reaction to being squeezed by life and circumstances. In an affair, your lover is not the one you would choose if you were on your own and single.

17.  If God says it, why does it have to make sense to you?

This particular reason is one of my personal favorites. One of the primary reasons I began to work with affairs stemmed from my own marital unfaithfulness. I was haunted for months by what I was doing, but was totally unable to pull the plug on my extramarital affair. I had even made multiple attempts to end the relationship, only to discover I couldn't exist without my drug of choice. I was living in the bubble and living in misery as I waited for the next rendezvous. Then in the blink of an eye, God broke into my world filling me with the love I had so desperately been seeking. While that was the most incredible experience of my life, I was still involved in a relationship I felt I was powerless to stop. I went to a trusted friend and inquired as to what he thought I should do. He asked, “What is God telling you?” "To come clean and let my wife know what I've done," I replied, "But that doesn't make sense to me because why should my wife be hurt because of my failure"? My friend asked, “If God said it, why does it need to make sense to you?” Why does it need to make sense to me if God is the one directing me? Is there a chance He might be smarter than I? Could it be He already knows the outcome of all of this? I told my wife, and the rest is a wonderful history. It didn't need to make sense. So I challenge you, if haven't already heard what God is saying, then ask, and keep asking until you do.

18.  The problem isn't your spouse.

It's funny how we deal with moral failure. We spend a lifetime trying to impress others so we can gain their recognition and approval. In fact, that drive to perform and achieve often emanates from the negative identity messages we received as children, messages that we're worthless or undesirable, or that we're not as good or valuable as others. Those messages create feelings of guilt and hopelessness. They cause us to feel unworthy and helpless. Our response to those negative feelings results in our best attempts to disprove the messages so the negative feelings will go away. We strive to achieve. We want to prove we can indeed be acceptable, and that we are not a waste of space; however, our best efforts still end in failure, and we still feel the rejection. No matter what we accomplish, we still feel the void, which in turn makes us feel angry and frustrated. This is because what we do, no matter how impressive it is, will ultimately never make us feel better about who we are. So, after we are frustrated by our failure to resolve our image problems (people still don’t see us the way we want), we turn to the negative ways of coping, such as drugs, alcohol, sex, money, food, gambling, control, anger, and on and on. The biggest problem with our negative approaches to dealing with life is the fallout that occurs as those in our life begin to discover our betrayal of our relationship with them. Once exposed, we're faced with the hard, cold reality that the initial messages we received growing up must be true. We are worthless, self- centered, and stupid, and we have successfully proven those negative identity messages to be true. So in order to salvage a little self-respect, we begin to use our best defense mechanisms to protect ourselves. In Genesis chapter 3, when Adam and Eve are discovered having busted God's rules, they try to protect their image by blaming. Adam blamed the woman and Eve blamed the serpent. They felt that if they could pass the blame, they could push away the bad feelings. As it was no longer about their own failure, they believed they would subsequently be able to avoid judgment and condemnation. I find that one of the most common responses to infidelity is blaming, and like Adam, the closest and easiest person to blame is one’s mate. So we attempt to push away our own guilt and avoid taking responsibility by focusing on our mate and their failures, and not on ourselves.

19.  Confusion fusion.

If you are doing things you don't want to do, it's not you doing it. It’s not that you aren’t responsible for your actions but that other forces are driving you, - forces that are compelling you to actions that will destroy you and your family. Some of you reading this may not understand, but for those of you who do; you need to take action. The very nature of the problem will prevent you from being able to stop the affair even if you apply your full will power. However, all is not lost. You may be powerless to stop the process, but God is more than capable of addressing the problem. Don't continue, out of pride, to fight a battle you can never win. Instead, “let go and let God.” You'll find you will actually receive what you have always been looking for.

20.  The truth will set you free.

In reality, the reward of affairs and sexually addictive behavior isn't freedom, but bondage. It is a trap that consumes your life and results in others getting to enjoy the fruits of your hard work and investments. There is no freedom in the lies generated by this behavior. Those lies keep you stuck in a situation where you can't move in or out of a relationship. I never cease to be amazed at the double messages generated by people involved in extramarital activities. The infidelity seems to indicate they want out of the marriage, but their efforts to hide the behavior indicate they want to protect the marriage. By maintaining lies, it is impossible to discover what is true. Consequently, we avoid confronting the issues in our marriage, we avoid discovering if our mate has enough love to still choose us after we betray them, and we avoid facing the truth about ourselves. However, when we begin to speak the truth, the pressure is finally lifted. We are free from image management, free from all the lies, free from pretenses, free to begin to face life on life's terms, and free to just be us. Others may or may not be able to accept us or what we’ve done, but when we begin to speak the truth, they are free to respond with the knowledge they’ve been given. We no longer have to carry the heavy burden of controlling their responses. Freedom will never come as the result of our betrayal, it can only come as we move into truth.

 

I hope Part 2 has helped you both cope and understand the enormity of an affair’s implications. If you’re willing to go to the next level of recovery, I’d like you to consider attending our EMS Weekend in April. We have a few more spots and I’d love for you both to join us to merely ‘see’ if there is any hope for the marriage. Couples from all over the country attend, merely to see if there is any hope, often they’re not convinced there is. You don’t have to be sure your marriage can be restored to attend our weekend intensives. Maybe you need an intensive to go deeper into the underlying issues and discover whether it’s truly over or if there is in fact, hope? 

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Comments

Great series, but...

I loved the first part of this series, and I liked the second part a lot too... my husband had/is having an affair and he's moved out of our house and in with the other woman. He says that I was mentally and verbally abusive and after a session with a counselor today, I have to face the fact that I was. I have told him that I would get counseling to change my behavior, but he merely said "You're 41 years old and set in your ways, you're never going to change your behavior." My counselor says that's nonsense, that anyone can change at any age, but anything coming out of my mouth just sounds manipulative to my husband. I am the first and only woman he ever left. All his formers broke up with him. He was also very insecure, and I think I took advantage of his love for me. Then one day, he lost a lot of weight, got a promotion and another woman started paying attention to him, and he wasn't so insecure anymore, and all my years of selfish demands and harsh judgments and angry outbursts and name calling and threats were just too much for him... why put up with that when he had this nice, sweet girl who just adored him?

great insight

Great article, I don't agree that anyone deserves death though. As devastated as I am by my husband's extramarital activities, I feel that he deserves as much happiness as I feel I am entitled to in life.

Moving on

Thank you so much for these articles. They have truly helped me. As the one who did wrong, I struggle to understand why I did these things. You feel like you are in love and tied to this person. It takes a lot of time and leaning on God to get you through the rough times. And the time to help your spouse heal as well. You articles have truly helped me!

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