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Life starts with what you believe


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Withdrawal From the Illusion – After the Affair – Part 2

How do I love thee…….extra maritally?  Let me count the ways.

What many people caught in an extra marital affair do not realize is that the ‘love’ they are experiencing is not real.  It’s a self-contrived illusion of love.  Let me count the ways.

One… Extra marital love is intentionally created in an unrealistic world, that is essentially free from conflict and deliberately protected from the cares of normal living.   Two….This love is time spent together in a fantasy where only maximum enjoyment is pursued and cultivated.   Three…The extravagant passion and admiration shared within the strict confines of adulterous love blinds the participants to the downside of the relationship.  Four…So intoxicating is this infatuated romance that time and again lovers will risk their family and everything they’ve invested within their marriage, to enjoy another momentary high; the craving for this experience is so intense that objective reality doesn’t stand a chance. Five…Need I count on?

This is why withdrawing from this addictive illusion is so painful.  Like a chemical dependency, there is no painless escape.  Sometimes the suffering seems completely unbearable and hopeless.  At times both the unfaithful, and the betrayed spouse feel powerless in the wake of such emotional turmoil.  One of my clients shared, ‘Elaine, I feel like hell.  Like I’ve been run over by a train.  I’m not sure I will ever recover.’

The decision to withdraw from an affair is not easy.  It must be made on a daily basis, regularly challenging thoughts, fears and emotions.   As I’ve worked with clients going through the pains of withdrawal, I have noted two common delusions that intensify the agony.  The delusion of not being able to live without their lover – even though the time spent in the affair was far less than the time spent out of it.   And the delusion that the heights of love enjoyed within the affair will never be experienced within the marriage – even though the feelings experienced in the affair was completely conditional, in every way possible, which is not true love at all.   During withdrawal, the yearning to see the object of their affection, to hear their voice or be together one last time is absolutely agonizing.   Resisting the desire to run back into the affair for a momentary relief from the emotional pain requires a tremendous amount of courage.

Here’s the good news.

The pains of withdrawal are temporary.  They can be overcome.  Withdrawing from an extra marital affair usually lasts three to four weeks, depending on the longevity and intensity of the affair and providing the temptation to return to the affair (which would reset the withdrawal period to the beginning, again, as soon as the affair ends, again) is averted.   Once on the other side of the withdrawal period, there is incredible hope for recovery!  With a combination of faith, support and the right balance of work and play, couples can find real love and enjoyment in their marriage once again.  And learning to find love….. is real love.  Let me count the ways!

Next Week; Hope For Recovery – After An Affair – Part 3

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It Never Starts With a Kiss – After An Affair – Part 1

Marital affairs are one of life’s most painful experiences.  Once discovered, the betrayal and broken trust cause excruciating pain, intense suffering and acute sadness for everyone involved. 

So why do so many people have an affair?

Authors Harley and Chalmers of ‘Surviving An Affair’ suggest that ‘infidelity doesn’t necessarily develop out of a bankrupt system of moral values.  Instead, personal values change to accommodate the affair.’1  I couldn’t agree more.  Affairs never start with a kiss. They start the minute you allow your heart to cross ‘the line’.

Affairs exist in a dangerous but breathtaking landscape combined with secrecy (which has the power to heighten any experience), emotions (which can’t be trusted on the best of days) and delusional thinking (it could never happen to me), so walking close to ‘the line’ is like playing Frisbee on a cliff.  It’s not long before a wrong decision and a wayward step takes you over the edge.  

In the past 10 years, I have successfully helped numerous couples recover from the devastating consequences of an extra marital affair. It doesn’t seem to matter if the affair was a one-night-stand, an affair-of-the-heart or a long term emotional-sexual relationship, time and again, the unfaithful spouse has been able to identify the exact moment ‘the line’ was crossed.

My clients also recognized that believing several widely accepted societal misunderstandings about affairs provided them with a false sense of security in their precarious playground. For example;

I Was Carried Away By My Emotions – While it’s true that emotions produce behaviours, it’s equally true that thoughts produce emotions. You cannot be swept away by your emotions unless you’ve let your thoughts run off, fantasizing about affair-based activities.

Affairs Just Happen – No they don’t. Affairs happen as a result of numerous small intentional choices that eventually lead to an affair.

My Values Will Protect Me – Oh really? Under the right conditions, when faced with the temptation of an affair, even those with strong spiritual convictions can find infidelity irresistible.

We Can Still Be Friends – No you can’t. Once ‘the line’ has been crossed in any way, complete separation is necessary to prevent the constant stirring of inappropriate feelings.

It’s Okay For Married People to Have Close Friendships With Members of the Opposite Sex – At the risk of sounding prudish, I say ‘no’. Most betrayed spouses are blindsided by their partners’ affair with their best friend. Availability, compatibility and proximity are three essential ingredients that fuel affairs.

I Need Time Away To Think Things Through – I usually interpret this as ‘I need some convenient excuse to get together with my lover’. Working through the devastation of an affair together, as a married couple, is the surest way to marital recovery.

It’s Better Not to Share My Feelings for Someone Else With My Spouse – Not true. Once an affair is exposed (no matter the stage it is at), the secrecy bubble breaks which often deflates passion. Without passion, the affair is usually seen for what it is – stupid.

If you’re currently playing too close to the edge, get help. Your life and marriage are worth it!

Watch for future blogs:

Withdrawal From The Illusion – After An Affair – Part 2

Hope For Recovery – After An Affair – Part 3


1’Surviving An Affair’ by Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. And Dr. Jennifer Harley Chalmers