Daniel P. Dashnaw, MS, MA, MFT is a marriage and family therapist and specializes in the "pervasive traumas of life": painful affairs, developmental trauma, sex addictions and angry, fighting couples. He conducts his couples therapy online and in an intensive retreat format.
He has advanced training in The Gottman Method, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and the Developmental Model of helping couples.
He is Editor of an award-winning Blog and is an Intake Coordinator at Couples Therapy Inc.
How can we define infidelity? Is it just what we decide to do or not do? Or is there a more fundamental issue at stake?
The concept of infidelity has never been more battered.
Define infidelity? Where do you start?
It begins with betrayal. There are many different sorts of betrayals from keeping "little secrets" to trying to avoid the very fights that would clear the air and allow for emotional connections between the partners.
Affairs happen in an increasing atmosphere of tolerance and accommodations to what passes for a marriage, but is often a perfunctory, surface engagement between two people.
Different types of affairs leads a person to behave in ways they know could end badly. Many recognize the consequences when a hidden affair becomes public. Catastrophic . Yet they indulge regardless.
I'll look at why why happen by defining different types of affairs, including:
In the aftermath of the disclosure or discovery of an affair, most couples are overwhelmed by pain, rage, and guilt. They reach out to professionals within days after an affair is uncovered.
The first phase for the Hurt Partner is Shock.
“How could they do this to me?” is a question that has probably existed in relationships for thousands of years.
Shock is held in the body and the mind. Numbness. Trance. Disbelief. And then...Rumination and Obsession.
The neuroscience of affairs teaches why it's hard for the Hurt Partner to focus on anything else during a hectic day.
Your mind won't let you.
Hurt Partners have their particular struggles that I'll review.
I'll discuss the pros and cons of telling your children about the affair, and why saying too little or two much can be problematic. I'll also cover how the child's age (including your adult children) impacts your decision-making of what to say and why. This is broken down by not only age of child, but also by the type of affair that was conducted.
One respected researcher in the field of affairs has learned that healing from an affair is not possible until the full story of the affair can be openly discussed and shared.
Her research was incredibly valuable because it was concrete and specific, and became the scientific foundation for new therapeutic methods in working with couples struggling to recover from an affair.
Both partners have a role in co-creating a constructive dialogue to heal and repair the bond.
The problem is that the more the Hurt Partner pushes for information, the more the Involved Partner retreats. The more the Involved Partner retreats, the more the Hurt Partner applies pressure.
What should be a heartfelt dialogue quickly becomes an escalating power struggle.
Learning to talk about an affair is a developed skill that couples can learn, sometimes alone, and sometimes with the help of a skilled couples therapist.
Knowing the three stages of affair recovery, and understanding where you currently are in that process can help.
Contrary to popular belief, most couples stay married in the aftermath of an affair.
Once infidelity is out in the open, couples typically display one of three distinct strategies for surviving infidelity.
This chapter goes through each and discusses the problematic aspects and adaptive solutions.
One of the reasons that affair recovery is such a common presenting problem in science-based couples therapy is that 2 of these 3 strategies are naturally occurring and tend to be somewhat problematic in the long -run.
Learn how to avoid these "default" adaptations.
According to one leading expert, the Supplicant Style of affair recovery is extremely common. With this strategy, the wound from the betrayal never really heals.
It’s sort of therapeutic gospel to assume that discovering that your partner is having an affair is a traumatic experience. I prefer to think of that more as a useful lie. Within a paradigm of trauma, we see three distinct behaviors from the hurt partner; hyper- vigilance, triggering and flashbacks, and what one researcher describes as “an obsessive need to hear the story.”
Helping a couple to heal from infidelity requires working with them to resolve the great irony of affair recovery.
The perpetrator must become the healer.
This is why I call it a useful lie.
Neuro-science tells us that for about a year after revelation, the Hurt Partner may experience profound mood changes, declines in physical health, and cognitive impairments.
Post-traumatic reactions tend to fall into three categories: hyper-arousal, intrusion, and constriction.
Learning how to cope with these reactions and taking constructive action can help.
"I Miss Her/Him..."
Nothing potentially causes more pain than when the Involved Partner utters those words. Maybe they only miss them, or maybe they've been in contact.
In either case, even as the person says them, they know the words are gasoline on a fire.
But when the Involved Partner opens up and shares, it's being honest. Painfully honest.
Honesty is such an essential part of the healing process.
How can the spouse respond in a way that can be healing and bring both of you closer, instead of creating more alienation?
Spouses aren't at their best when an affair is revealed and are often contrasted against an "idealized other" who is in "full dating mode" whenever they meet.
In contrast to the spouse who may feel "outraged," the affair partner continues to be "adoring." That's a challenge for any couple to face boldly. But it can be done. And the marriage can heal and move on.