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

How Wise Are You?

“Now I get it,” an angry spouse shouted at their mate. “I doubt it,” I thought to myself. I wish it were as easy as that. I was speaking with a couple that had been working for 5 months to understand the “why” of the affair and to find a solution for their situation. While trying to explain the dynamics of the relationship and the frequency of contact with the AP the hurt spouse concluded, “You never loved me.” “I never did anything that hurt you.” “Are you serious?” “You were so controlling, I had no voice in our relationship, everything had to be done your way.” “Well at least I was honest…” I was confident the truth lay somewhere between their two subjective realities, but the trauma and pain, created by the infidelity, had left them both blind to reality. Neither could see a solution because both were self-deceived.

“An infant is learning how to crawl. She begins by pushing herself backward around the house. Backing herself around, she gets lodged beneath the furniture. There she thrashes about, crying and banging her little head against the sides and undersides of the pieces. She is stuck and hates it. So she does the only thing she can think of to get herself out—she pushes even harder, which only worsens her problem. She’s more stuck than ever.

If this infant could talk, she would blame the furniture for her troubles. After all, she is doing everything she can think of. The problem couldn’t be hers. But of course the problem is hers, even though she can’t see it. While it’s true that she’s doing everything she can think of, the problem is precisely that she can’t see how she’s the problem. Having the problem she has, nothing she can think of will be a solution.

Self-deception is like this. It blinds us to the true causes of problems, and once we’re blind, all the “solutions” we can think of will actually make matters worse. Regardless of our situation, self-deception obscures the truth about ourselves, corrupts our views of others and our circumstances and inhibits our ability to make wise and helpful decisions. To the extent we are self-deceived our happiness is undermined, and not because of furniture.” (The Arbinger Institute. Leadership and Self-Deception. San Francisco: Berrett- Koehler, 2010. Print.)

The above passage reveals a sad reality for many impacted by infidelity. In the midst of the crisis all we know to do is what we have already been doing. All too often we’re blind to the larger reality of how we got here and we try to solve our dilemma using the same thought process that helped get us here in the first place. As Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." Doing more of the same thing that helped create the problem won’t solve the problem, and we’re limited in what we know.

I once heard wisdom defined as three simple words, “I don’t know;” and humility defined, as “I can’t.” The person capable of uttering those words is at least open to new possibilities. The greatest inhibitor to self-deception is pride. When someone won’t listen it’s almost always pride. Have you ever been in a meeting with someone who’s really proud? Usually it’s impossible to make your point because they already know what’s best and what needs to be done. And while their way may be a good way, is it always the only way? Even more, the proud are incapable of even seeing another way. When working with someone who believes they know every solution, I normally start my points by inviting them to “consider the possibility that….” To phrase my suggestions any other way only results in defensiveness.

What troubles me is not knowing whether I’m self-deceived, or if I have blind spots created by my pride, and if those things have me hopelessly stuck in self-defeating patterns. How does one combat self-deception and pride?

The solution to self-deception is simple enough: compassion and concern. When I begin trying to manage and control people I know I’ve moved into self-deception. Instead of considering their needs as important as my own, I now am trying to get what I need from them and begin viewing them as the problem rather than considering how my behavior contributes to the situation. For pride, the solution is both wisdom and humility. Considering that maybe I don’t know and that I might need more than me to get out of this allows me to consider others and to consider other possibilities.

Some of you might be asking what this all has to do with infidelity, but it’s terribly important. When we betray another, or someone betrays us, we typically think we know what needs to be done. We think we know what’s needed to feel better, but the strength of our reaction to the pain or shame is the very thing that blinds us to other alternatives. Whichever side of the equation you’re on, whether you’re the betrayed or the betrayer, I encourage you to try to maintain an attitude of compassion and concern for your mate. That will at least help in maintaining some balance in how you see your mate. Continually remind yourself that you may not know what’s best, and that maybe you don’t have all the answers or the ability to do it all yourself. That can open up world of new pathways for finding a new life.

If you don’t know where to turn, I do hope you’ll join our community at Affair Recovery. At the very least you’ll find knew ways of understanding which can help you find knew solutions. Consider joining our Recovery Library to get the knowledge you need to try something new.

Sections: 

RL_Category: 

RL_Media Type: 

AA Codes: 

Add New Comment:

Comments

I know both of us are, guilty

I know both of us are, guilty of this but I do not know how to stop it.

It takes 2 very brave people

It takes 2 very brave people to be able to discuss what needs to be discussed in affir recovery. A counselor who is willing to work with each of you to navigate the necessary discussions would be effective. Effective and careful communication of important issues can do much to restore intimacy...ironically... Trusting each other to be mindful and respectful in the discussions, proactively addressing what might be a concern, understanding triggers are unexpected and very painful, understanding and being patient with withdrawals, moodiness, etc... Understand you are building a different relationship - not the one you had when you first fell in love romantically. I've been told by other survivors that it is deeper and worth it. But - It takes 2 trustworthy, committed people!

Hindsight

Hindsight is 20/20 for both parties. Looking back, I would have better supported my wife and helped her to feel more secure in our love and my need for her. She would certainly have communicated her fears, avoided low people and never let herself be with another man. It does take wisdom to move forward from the affair, but I'm struggling to move beyond it. Nearly two years and though the pain of it has lessened due to time, forgiveness is still not forthcoming. Is it just possible that someone cannot get over the betrayal, the deceit and the physical affair of a spouse? Like others, I'm tired of the fight in my heart and mind. I'm weary and want to give in, but my mind fights it off....but I'm tired of living with this. Maybe I'm just not strong enough to get over this.

It has been 7 years since I

It has been 7 years since I discovered my husbands affair,after 21years of marriage. The pain has lessened and I have tried to forgive,but to no avail. Yes I do believe that it is possible that someone cannot ever get over the betrayal, the deceit and the physical affair of a spouse. I met my husband when I was fourteen and we dated for seven years before we were married. At the time of my marriage I truly believed this was my soul mate. In the 21 years we were married, before the affair, I never once doubted my husbands faithfulness or trustworthiness to me. Well, wasn't I the fool to be had. In one moment everything the marriage was built on came crashing down. We have tried to build it up again, but I cannot even start with the foundation in fear of it falling down again. We did seek counselling from several counsellors and that did help, but only short term. I no longer discuss or even mention the affair since there is no more to be said and yes I am still married , now 28 years.

I am over 7 years out from

I am over 7 years out from Revelation. Up to that point in my marriage, I would tell people that my husband was the nicest and most honest person there was. All that was destroyed. I believe that I forgave him but it is reconciliation that has not yet taken place in our marriage. Isn't reconciliation a large part of his responsiblility? He just wants it to go away. Always a job change for him or some other kind of chaos in our lives (created by him) to force the focus off of the healing and growth. What do you do when you're stuck and the unfaithful spouse isn't interested in doing the necessary work to move forward?

Marriage Support

These recent articles address many of issues that my husband and I are experiencing. (pimping tenderness, 5 simple steps that will protect your marriage, How Wise are You? Lack of Safety in the Relationship.....just a few. We are 20 years out from counseling with you. It appears as if most of the articles focus on the importance of the first months/years. I don't know if there are common issues/lapses that other couples tend to experience after many successful years. :) We began experiencing issues about 8 years ago. He began drifting away from the boundaries that he placed up. I spoke with him about this many times and each time he said he would put the boundary back up. The boundaries continued to slip away. ex. meeting with women at work alone to keep up on office gossip behind closed doors and many times taping paper up to cover the windows. Several of these women give me that deer in the headlights look and avoid me. Red Flags for me. He said they are 'just friends'. And when these women needed a listening ear who did they come get? Phone calls, emails, private meetings in rooms alone over and over again. I asked him what he would do if one of them made an advance? Oh, he'd handle it when that happened. Isn't this like playing with fire? It makes me wonder if he has forgotten what we went through. Most days after the discovery I would of preferred to have died than feel the pain. When the boundary lines loosened it triggered off overwhelming feelings as if I am reliving the past all over again night and day. Sweats, sleepless nights, shaking, high blood pressure, loss of appetite... The continuance of these issues has taken its toll on the marriage. He is mostly closed to articles that even mention affair recovery....".that was in the past".... "you should've been over it along time ago"..... If we discuss that part of our past he most often goes into a suicidal depression and talks about leaving. Little desire to share details of what/who is going on in his life...."he doesn't feel like rehashing it"....."don't ask" .."if something changes I'll tell you." I recently asked for his email accounts and passwords ..he did give them to me .. but he looked at me like...really?? that's why we are here....looking for hope and help. God Be in our Marriage......

What type of affair was it?

Our free Affair Analyzer provides you with insights about your unique situation and gives you a personalized plan of action.
Take the Affair Analyzer